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December 13th, 2008
Australian researchers have reported making grams of graphene using nothing more complicated than sodium and ethanol . The process, according to team leader John Stride at the University of New South Wales, should help accelerate the progress of applications for a much-hyped material that's proved hard to manufacture cheaply.
Graphene - a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice - has been hailed as the long-term future of electronics. Superb electrical conductivity, strength and flexibility make it an attractive material for everything from LCDs to transistors. In the nearer term, the flat carbon sheet may find use in many other applications, including batteries, composites and gas storage - though it will have to prove its advantages over carbon nanotubes.
But making large quantities of graphene cheaply is difficult. It can be produced by ripping layers of carbon from a chunk of graphite using sticky tape - the so-called 'Scotch tape' method. But sorting out the useful atomically thin flakes from thicker graphite debris is a painstaking, and thus expensive, process.
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