The headline may seem incredulous, but it is true. A team of researchers from Trinity College (Dublin), directed by Jonathan Coleman, has managed to produced large quantities of high quality graphene using a food blender, into which they placed graphite powder (obtained from pencil mines), water and detergent. The prestigious scientific magazine Nature Materials has already published the news.
Graphene is a material which is undoubtedly destined to change our lives. Due to its multiple properties, the researchers are constantly adding to the number of applications it will soon have in our daily lives. On this blog, we have echoed this in articles such as Graphene: Material That Will Change Our World and The Latest on Graphene.
Graphene itself is economical as it can be obtained from the natural graphite found in coalmines. However, until now the challenge faced by researchers has been to simplify the process of obtaining graphene from graphite. The work of the Trinity College team opens an unexpected route for simple and cheap production in industrial quantities. The process has been patented and the company Thomas Swan has announced a four-year collaboration with Trinity College to work on large-scale production of the material. Moreover, the graphene obtained by the researchers has a high degree of purity and high conductivity.
While it is true that the Coleman team used a common blender in their work, they had used an industrial blender in initial experiments and used the household appliance to demonstrate how far they had managed to simplify the production process. However, it must be stated that the preceding and subsequent processes require complex knowledge and therefore, obviously, we cannot conclude that just anyone can begin producing graphene in their kitchen.
In 2011 Jonathan Coleman was named Researcher of the Year by the SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) and he is considered to be one of the 100 best material scientists of the past decade.