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Environment-friendly, large scale production of graphene, the innovative nanomaterial essential for the production of computer technologies, medical equipment and other advanced applications, is now possible.
Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York and Delft University of Technology (DUT) in the Netherlands, have found a time-saving and cost-efficient way to produce graphene in large volumes, without causing harm to the environment. More importantly, the new method will ensure that large scale production will not affect the amazing properties of graphene.
In a report published in the ChemOpen Journal, researchers led by Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor at the Department of Biology at the University of Rochester, along with her former colleagues at the DUT in Netherlands, described the new method as one that combines graphite oxidants with bacteria.
Meyer explained that real applications require large amounts. Yet producing bulk amounts of graphene presented difficulties because the resulting substance became denser, and at the same time less pure.
That being one of the stumbling blocks to large-scale graphene production, they were able to tackle the problem by mixing oxidized graphite with bacteria, instead of the present method of using chemicals. Their solution therefore is not only cost efficient and less time-consuming but also environmentally friendly.
Professor Meyer and her team of researchers combined graphene oxidants (GO) with a bacteria known as Shewanella. The bacteria demonstrated capability to remove most of the groups of oxygen, which in time made the GO a highly conductive graphene material. She takes pride in saying that their bacterially-produced graphene is far superior. She added that they were able to develop “bacterial lithography,” a technique that can lead to the development of other nanocomposite materials, using graphene materials that are highly conductive only on one side.
Graphene is best described as a flake of graphite carbon that is equivalent to a single layer of atoms arranged in a pattern resembling a honeycomb. It is actually a nanomaterial, which despite its thinness is regarded as the strongest material with the highest capability for conducting heat and electricity. It was discovered in 2004 by scientists at the University of Manchester in the UK who later received the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for its discovery.
Touted as the world’s strongest material, it is widely used in enhancing the strength of other materials like plastic and metals even only with a trace amount of graphene. Composite graphene, possessing greater mechanical strength, high degree of conductivity, and greater capacity for storing energy, found excellent use in the aerospace industry, as well as in the manufacture of construction materials, mobile devices, advanced hospital equipment and many other technological innovations and applications.