Scottish researchers crack method of producing graphene 100-times cheaper

20 Nov 2015

One of the major limiting factors stopping graphene from becoming the wonder technology it is continually claimed to be is its cost, but a team of Scottish researchers claims it has cracked a method of making it 100-times cheaper to produce.

It’s been more than a decade since graphene was first harnessed from graphite, promising a material that would have an even greater effect than the introduction of plastic in the mid-20th century, being incredibly strong but also incredibly thin and flexible with a thickness of just one atom.

But, as those familiar with the technology will know, the progress has been particularly slow as it has proven incredibly difficult to make it a viable product for market.

Now, however, a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow says it has found a means of making it much, much cheaper by using materials found commonly in people’s homes.

Publishing its paper in journal Scientific Reports, the team said it will be able to make large sheets of graphene using the copper used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.

Currently, graphene is being produced in the laborious and expensive method of chemical vapour deposition (CVD), turning these gaseous reactants into a graphene film on a surface substrate.

Potential use in synthetic skin

As it turns out, the Scottish-produced graphene was found to be a stark improvement on the previous method in terms of electrical and optical performance of transistors compared with the previous method.

Speaking of the breakthrough, one of the leads on the project, Dr Ravinder Dahiya, said: “The commercially-available copper we used in our process retails for around $1 per square metre, compared to around $115 for a similar amount of the copper currently used in graphene production. This more expensive form of copper often requires preparation before it can be used, adding further to the cost of the process.

“Our process produces high-quality graphene at low cost, taking us one step closer to creating affordable new electronic devices with a wide range of applications, from the smart cities of the future to mobile healthcare.”

Dr Dahiya’s own development of graphene has looked at its potential use for synthetic skin, with the aim of helping people with prosthetic limbs gain a sense of touch through graphene sensors surrounding the limb.

Graphene illustration via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic