Researchers have developed a cost-effective and eco-friendly way of producing graphene using one of Australia’s most abundant resources – eucalyptus trees.
This interesting article could be used alongside Earth and Space, Chemical and Biological Sciences for years 7, 8, 9, and 10. It opens up a great opportunity for a discussion on the links between science and technology as well as the development of future technologies.
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However, it’s usefulness is limited by its difficulty to produce.
Gum trees leads to cheaper graphene production
Suresh Bhargava, who led the research at RMIT, says the new method could drastically reduce the cost of graphene production.
“Eucalyptus bark extract has never been used to synthesise graphene sheets before and we are thrilled to find that it not only works, it’s in fact a superior method, both in terms of safety and overall cost,” says Bhargava.
“Our approach could bring down the cost of making graphene from around $USD100 per gram to just 50 cents, increasing it availability to industries globally and enabling the development of an array of vital new technologies.”
Green chemistry avoids use of toxic substances
Vishnu Shanker from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, says the ‘green’ chemistry avoids the use of toxic reagents, potentially opening the door to the application of graphene not only for electronic devices but also biocompatible materials.
Chemical reduction is the most common method for synthesising graphene oxide as it allows for the production of graphene at a low cost in bulk quantities.
This method however relies on reducing agents that are dangerous to both people and the environment.
When tested in the application of a supercapacitor, the ‘green’ graphene produced using this method matched the quality and performance characteristics of traditionally-produced graphene without the toxic reagents.
Bhargava says the abundance of eucalyptus trees in Australia made it a cheap and accessible resource for producing graphene locally.
“Graphene is a remarkable material with great potential in many applications due to its chemical and physical properties and there’s a growing demand for economical and environmentally friendly large-scale production.”
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