This ScienceDaily new article, which is sourced from a news report from Rice University and written by Mike Williams, does a decent job at describing the results and implications from the recently published journal article in Nature from primary author Duy X. Luong. The journal article describes a new method for the preparation of graphene (a form of carbon where the carbon molecules are bonded in their classic planar hexagon shape in repeating units spread in all directions in two-dimensions) that is far more efficient and economically viable compared to current methods. The process results in a product that is dubbed “flash graphene” that is made by passing a very high voltage through any carbon-containing material. The temperatures that are reached in this process are so high that the atoms within the sample break apart and rearrange leaving carbon in its most stable form (graphene) and releasing the other atoms like hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, etc. as pure gases which can be captured and purified as sources for these gases. What is most important about this process is the speed at which the process can be done and the large amounts of material that can be made. The group hopes to be able to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of graphene per day within two years.
This article does a good job at explaining the methods and findings of this journal article in detail, where each step of the process and each benefit of this process is clearly laid out in the news article. The news article does not go into very much detail on some of the implications that this newly made graphene can be used. It briefly mentions how it can be used as a supplemental material in cement to make it stronger, thus reducing the overall amount of cement that is needed and reducing the amount of CO2 from cement product, but the news article does not go further than this. While it has been known for quite some time that graphene is one of the strongest materials, the current production methods do not produce enough graphene to allow for large scale use like in construction or other applications. Additionally, this article is slightly lacking in detail on some of the terms used in the paper like “A-B stacked graphene” and “turbostatic graphene”. While defining these terms are not important to understanding the results, it would have been nice to see some explanation.
The largest downfall of this news article is that the journal article is not freely publicly available and is only accessible through purchase or through an organization or institutions subscription to Nature. The original article on the Rice University website (which is linked in the ScienceDaily article) does contain graphics and videos of the process that go into more detail so that others can see this process and the results without having to pay.
The article talks about a new process that has been discovered by chemists at Rice university, to convert any carbon – based material into Graphene. Graphene is a 2 – dimensional material consisting of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. It has been hailed as a wonder material since its discovery (which won its discoverers a Nobel Prize in Physics!) owing to its excellent mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties and no to mention, its immense flexibility. All throughout the years, people have been trying to produce Graphene on a large scale to incorporate in industrial products but a fairly expensive and not-so eco-friendly ways of producing it has so far hindered the progress. The new study by the team at Rice looks at potentially lowering this obstacle by finding a way to turn any carbon based material into graphene through eco-friendly process. Here are some of the key take-aways from the article.
Graphene is made in 10 milliseconds by heating carbon-containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin (about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The source material can be nearly anything with carbon content. Food waste, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, wood clippings and biochar are prime candidates.
As I previously mentioned, Graphene is material with high mechanical strength and at the same time is light enough. By strengthening concrete with graphene, we could use less concrete for building, and it would cost less to manufacture and less to transport.
Essentially, they are trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills and converting those carbons into graphene. Adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It's a win-win environmental scenario.
The flash process happens in a custom-designed reactor that heats material quickly and emits all noncarbon elements as gas.
Even better, the process produces "turbostratic" graphene, with misaligned layers that are easy to separate. This simply means that as graphene layers are stacked one over the other, the arrangement of atoms above and below plays a crucial role in telling if one layer is strongly adhered to the other. The process mentioned in the article creates such a stack of graphene layers that are easy to ‘peel off’ from one another and hence can be controlled and used to our likes for an application.
Overall, the article has explained the crux of the study nicely and has avoided using much jargon as and when possible. The original article published in the journal – ‘Nature’ is also a worthwhile read considering that the authors have explained the scientific experiments conducted in a clear and lucid manner.
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