Irish team taps method of producing graphene on industrial scale

22 Apr 2014

An Irish research team has reportedly developed a breakthrough method of manufacturing of the ‘wonder material’ graphene on an industrial scale, something scientists have been unable to achieve until now.

AMBER, a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded research group based in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have been working on the developing the material that is only the width of an atom, but is extremely conductive and seen as the next stage in the evolution of computing power, similar to the introduction of silicon for the microchip.

It has also been widely envisaged that the ultra-thin material will make the next generation of devices incredibly flexible, with applications in advanced food packaging, high strength plastics, foldable touchscreens for mobile phones and laptops, super-protective coatings for wind turbines and ships, and faster broadband and batteries with dramatically higher capacity than anything available today.

This breakthrough by the AMBER team, led by Prof Jonathan Coleman, is significant because it has found a solution to one of the biggest hurdles to graphene’s production, being its creation on an industrial scale at an affordable price.

The team demonstrated that not only could graphene-containing liquids be produced in standard lab-scale quantities of a few 100 millilitres, but the process could be scaled up to produce hundreds of litres and beyond.

According to their research, the team members discovered this process after they used a simple method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene using commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers.

“This shows how industry and academic collaboration can lead to research of the highest calibre, with real commercial applications,” Coleman said.

“This paper combines basic and applied research and contains elements of physics, chemistry, materials science and chemical engineering. It brings together academic expertise with the wealth of experience provided by Dr Keith Paton, Thomas Swan’s researcher who is working with us here on-site in AMBER.

“Graphene has been identified as a life-changing material and to be involved at this stage of development is a wonderful achievement.”

Graphene image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic