Physicists inadvertently discover a way to mass-produce graphene

By this point, you’ve almost certainly heard of graphene: the ultra-strong, ultra-versatile wonder material that can seemingly do no wrong. But while graphene has a wealth of potentially transformative use-cases, one problem it has had until now is that it can’t be easily and cheaply mass-produced.

That may have changed courtesy of a breakthrough at Kansas State University, where physicists have inadvertently discovered a way to mass-produce graphene using nothing more complex than hydrocarbon gas, oxygen, and a spark plug.

The method, which has now been patented, involves oxygen and either acetylene or ethylene gas being placed into a chamber, with the spark plug then prompting a contained detonation that produces the graphene in bulk.

Lead inventor Professor Chris Sorensen described the discovery to Digital Trends as “serendipity” striking. “We got lucky,” he said — noting that the discovery was a fortunate byproduct of work being done into carbon soot aerosol gels. Nonetheless, it is a particularly exciting step forward,

“We’ve looked at what other people have achieved with synthetic methods and we feel our method has a number of advantages,” Professor Sorensen said. “The biggest of those is simplicity. All we have to do is to fill a chamber with some oxygen and hydrocarbon, and then use a detonation. We don’t need a catalyst, there are no nasty chemicals, and it looks scaleable. We think it’s a very nice process.”

As noted, graphene has a range of incredibly exciting applications — extending from potentially improving smartphone battery life to acting as a material for future wearable tech, or even detecting cancer in the human body. There are plenty of labs around the world doing this exciting work, and hopefully now they’ll have a ready supply to carry it out with.

“I’m not a graphene physicist, I’m an aerosol scientist,” Sorensen said, self-effacingly. “I feel a bit like I’ve adopted a wolf. The wolf loves me and I love the wolf, so I’m going to keep her, but it’s not my area of expertise. It would be great to license this stuff, and we’re already getting some interest from people about that.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Perlick brings a bigger, bolder version of its high-tech fridge to KBIS 2019

Milwaukee-based manufacturer Perlick has been making refrigerators for nearly 50 years. It will be unveiling a bigger, bolder version of its popular column refrigerator at KBIS 2019.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Mobile

The Apollo Traveller is the fastest recharging power bank we’ve ever used

Power banks are getting better all the time, but the Apollo Traveller from Elecjet hits new heights in terms of charging and recharging speeds thanks to the use of a graphene composite for cooling. Here's what happened when we tried it out.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.