Recently, researchers have been able to create graphene using a pack of carbons. It is lighter, yet 200 times stronger than steel, and better conductive than copper. However, this process of creating graphene involving carbon and pressure is too costly and almost impossible to be done in the labs.
Thus, experts sought an alternative way to create the same material using only an ingredient that's usually seen in the kitchen.
graphene made with soybean oil (c) ABC.net
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications
, Australian scientists detailed how they turned soybean oil into graphene under normal air conditions.
To produce graphene using soybean oil, the oil is heated in a tube furnace for about 30 minutes, until it decomposes into carbon building blocks on a foil made of nickel.
After that, it is rapidly cooled as it diffuses to the surface of the foil into a thin rectangle of graphene film, about five centimeters by two centimeters and one nanometer thick. The end product is about 80,000 times thinner than a human hair, which makes it flexible.
Graphene bears stunning abilities, making it usable for electronics, solar cells, and compounding of medicine. However, the initially proposed method is too complicated. Compared to the new technique using soybean oil, the process had to use intense heat in a vacuum, expensive ingredients like high-purity metals, as well as explosive compressed gases.
Study co-author Dr Zhao Jun Han of the CSIRO said this new process is faster and more energy-efficient than other methods.
"The other methods require a few hours of pumping a vacuum, growing a film, and cooling it down," he said in a statement
Dr Dong Han Seo, a co-author of the study examines the material (c) ABC.net
Dr Zhao added, the new technique could cut the cost of graphene production ten times cheaper.
"We believe that this process can significantly reduce the cost of producing graphene film," Dr Zhao said.
"It can then accommodate many applications that were previously limited by the high price of producing these films."
According to experts, for now the biggest graphene film that can be made using soybean oil is the size of a credit card.
Dr Zhao Jun Han said, "we're also thinking of using it for some energy storage devices, like batteries and supercapacitors. The films could be able to conduct energy in a very efficient way."