An Irish-UK scientific team managed to make “supermaterial” graphene using a kitchen blender.
Graphene is thin, strong, flexible and electrically conductive, and has the potential to transform electronics as well as other technologies.
The research team poured graphite powder (used in pencil leads) into a blender, then added water and dishwashing liquid, mixing at high speed.
The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials.
Because of its potential uses in industry, a number of researchers have been searching for ways to make defect-free graphene in large amounts.
The material comprises a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure. Graphite is effectively made up of many layers of graphene stacked on top of one another.
Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College Dublin and colleagues tested out a variety of laboratory mixers as well as kitchen blenders as potential tools for manufacturing the wonder material.
They showed that the shearing force generated by a rapidly rotating tool in solution was sufficiently intense to separate the layers of graphene that make up graphite flakes without damaging their two-dimensional structure.
However, it’s not advisable to try this at home. The precise amount of dishwashing fluid that’s required is dependent on a number of different factors and the black solution containing graphene would need to be separated afterwards.
However, the researchers said their work “provides a significant step” towards deploying graphene in a variety of commercial applications.
In addition to its potential uses in electronics, graphene might have applications in water treatment or oil spill clean-up.