A new study has found that graphene can be made instantly without solvents, gases, or purification by applying electricity to almost anything containing carbon, including plastic and food waste.
The study was led by Duy Xuan Long, a Rice University in Houston physicist, who devised the new method while experimenting with a technique called “flash Joule heating,” according to IEEE Spectrum. The process involved using a capacitor to send a jolt of high-voltage electricity through some carbon powder, which heated it to more than 2,700 degrees Celsius in less than a tenth of a second.
The result was high-quality “flash” graphene with low defects, and the research team published their findings in the journal Nature.
Flash graphene can be made from almost anything with carbon in it, from coal, plastic garbage, wood clippings, rubber tires and more, the scientists said noting that the process becomes easier the more carbon in the source material.
The researchers hope their work leads to reducing the commercial price of graphene, which currently ranges from $67,000-$200,000 per ton, Rice University chemist and senior author of the study James Tour told IEEE Spectrum. The flash graphene method could bring the cost down to as low as $100 per ton, he notes.