If you have a high-powered blender, a powder found in pencils, dish soap and 30 minutes, you could produce one of the strongest materials on the planet — though it’s not advisable that you try.
Graphene, the flexible, conducive material that can be only a single layer of carbon atoms thick and is stronger than diamonds, has countless applications, but is especially valuable for the role it plays in new electronics.
According to a recent study that evaluated how to produce graphene on an industrial scale, something that will become more important as demand grows, researchers described a surprisingly simple method. The Irish Times reported that the market for the “wonder material” will reach $100 million by 2018.
The team led by Jonathan Coleman with Trinity College Dublin’s materials science center demonstrated that a 400-watt kitchen blender (though industrial blenders would be preferred), graphite powder, water and a little soap could product a large amount of high-quality graphene flakes.
“You could probably do it at home in a kitchen blender. We demoed the process in a Kenwood blender from Argos worth €39.95 and added a bit of Fairy Liquid,” Coleman told the Irish Times.
“By fully characterizing the scaling behavior of the graphene production rate, we show that exfoliation can be achieved in liquid volumes from hundreds of milliliters up to hundreds of liters and beyond,” the authors wrote.
Graphene expert Andrea Ferrari with the University of Cambridge told Nature the technique is a “significant step forward toward cheap and scalable mass production.”
While this isn’t the only way to produce graphene, the researchers think the flakes produced with this method could have specific uses, such as in batteries, plastic bottle filler and more.
“Producing graphene has been done by others too, but many sheets are defective, it is not perfect, and so its properties are not what they should be. What we have done is develop a method to make defect-free graphene in large quantities and in principle very large quantifies to [tons],” Coleman told the Irish Times.
Why shouldn’t you try this at home? According to Nature, it wouldn’t necessarily work and you would render your blender unusable for food products afterward.
Learn more about why graphene is such an important material in this video from Discovery News:
Front page image via Shutterstock.