A process for producing hundreds of litres of solutions containing graphene sheets is reported online this week in Nature Materials. This method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene is so simple that, in principle, it could also be replicated at home using household appliances.
Jonathan Coleman and colleagues used commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers and even kitchen blenders, to obtain well-dispersed graphene solutions both in small and large containers - from millilitre-sized lab flasks to industrial tanks. They show that the shearing force generated by a rapidly rotating tool in solution can be sufficiently intense to separate the layers of graphene composing the graphite flakes, without damaging their two-dimensional structure. This approach is also effective for other layered materials with interesting optical and electronic properties, such as molybdenum disulphide and boron nitride.
The authors tested the performance of the produced graphene sheets by using them as fillers to mechanically reinforce plastic materials and as conducting elements for solar cells and batteries. They suggest that making large quantities of cheap and good-quality graphene with this method will boost the deployment of this material in various commercial applications.