BRT has waxed enthusiastic about Graphene since 2008 as this material has the potential to change how man conducts business on planet earth due to the unique characteristics of a one atom thick sheet of carbon, the same exact thing as pencil lead save for the form factor just described. Because of this, the difficulty of getting enough graphene to do something serious has been problematic until now.
A new technique invented at Caltech to produce graphene—a material made up of an atom-thick layer of carbon—at room temperature could help pave the way for commercially feasible graphene-based solar cells and light-emitting diodes, large-panel displays, and flexible electronics.
"With this new technique, we can grow large sheets of electronic-grade graphene in much less time and at much lower temperatures," says Caltech staff scientist David Boyd, who developed the method.
It gets better.
The ability to produce graphene without the need for active heating not only reduces manufacturing costs, but also results in a better product because fewer defects—introduced as a result of thermal expansion and contraction processes—are generated. This in turn eliminates the need for multiple postproduction steps. "Typically, it takes about ten hours and nine to ten different steps to make a batch of high-mobility graphene using high-temperature growth methods," Yeh says. "Our process involves one step, and it takes five minutes."
A scaled-up version of their plasma technique could open the door for new kinds of electronics manufacturing, Yeh says. For example, graphene sheets with low concentrations of defects could be used to protect materials against degradation from exposure to the environment. Another possibility would be to grow large sheets of graphene that can be used as a transparent conducting electrode for solar cells and display panels. "In the future, you could have graphene-based cell-phone displays that generate their own power," Yeh says.
Another possibility, she says, is to introduce intentionally imperfections into graphene's lattice structure to create specific mechanical and electronic attributes. "If you can strain graphene by design at the nanoscale, you can artificially engineer its properties. But for this to work, you need to start with a perfectly smooth, strain-free sheet of graphene," Yeh says. "You can't do this if you have a sheet of graphene that has uncontrollable defects in different places."
Tech, like money, never sleeps. :)