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Researchers Have Produced Cheaper And Higher Quality Graphene Which Could Lead To Synthetic Skin

Artificial Skin

Only a few materials in the world of science strike as much awe as graphene,  which was first measurably produced and isolated from graphite in 2004. In 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting-edge experiments on it.

Graphene is virtually a two-dimensional material that is only a single atom thick. Astonishingly, it is at least 200 times stronger than steel, nearly transparent, flexible, and has top performing heat and electricity conducting properties.

Cheaper

Nonetheless, graphene is expensive to produce. Though it boasts of a wide range of applications, production cost has hampered the proliferation of graphene into new consumer technologies.

However, a team of researchers at the University of Glasgow has broken the gridlock with an innovative process to produce large sheets of graphene using cheap copper that is the same as the type used in the manufacture of the now ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries found in most battery-powered consumer tech.

According to the team led by Dr Ravinder Dahiya, the cost of producing graphene with their process is about 100 times cheaper than using existing processes. A paper detailing the process has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Picture credit: University of Glasgow

Dr Ravinder Dahiya (Image credit: University of Glasgow)

Currently, the common process of manufacturing graphene, called CVD or chemical vapor deposition, involves turning gaseous reactants into a film of graphene on a special surface referred to as a substrate.

The process used by the research team is similar to the CVD process. However, it uses commercially available copper foils like those used as the negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries as the special surface or substrate.

Higher Quality

In addition, the researchers found that the transistors they made using the graphene they produced exhibited a marked improvement in their optical and electrical performance compared to similar materials manufactured using the older expensive process.

A new dawn

According to Dr Dahiya, the cost of the special copper used in production currently is $115 per square meter. In contrast, the commercially available copper used by the team of researchers cost only $1 per square meter.

This outstanding reduction in manufacturing cost and the marked improved quality of graphene produced by the new process may be instrumental in the introduction of affordable and more efficient electronic devices that incorporate top performing graphene.

The applications of these electronics and graphene in particular are manifold including use in mobile healthcare and the smart cities of the future. Graphene could lead to the production of commercially available synthetic skin capable of providing sensory feedback to people using limb prostheses, a feat that is impossible for even the most advanced prosthetics today.

About the author

Warren Simons