Gram-scale bottom-up flash graphene synthesis

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Abstract

Most bulk-scale graphene is produced by a top-down approach, exfoliating graphite, which often requires large amounts of solvent with high-energy mixing, shearing, sonication or electrochemical treatment1–3. Although chemical oxidation of graphite to graphene oxide promotes exfoliation, it requires harsh oxidants and leaves the graphene with a defective perforated structure after the subsequent reduction step3,4. Bottom-up synthesis of high-quality graphene is often restricted to ultrasmall amounts if performed by chemical vapour deposition or advanced synthetic organic methods, or it provides a defect-ridden structure if carried out in bulk solution4–6. Here we show that flash Joule heating of inexpensive carbon sources—such as coal, petroleum coke, biochar, carbon black, discarded food, rubber tyres and mixed plastic waste—can afford gram-scale quantities of graphene in less than one second. The product, named flash graphene (FG) after the process used to produce it, shows turbostratic arrangement (that is, little order) between the stacked graphene layers. FG synthesis uses no furnace and no solvents or reactive gases. Yields depend on the carbon content of the source; when using a high-carbon source, such as carbon black, anthracitic coal or calcined coke, yields can range from 80 to 90 per cent with carbon purity greater than 99 per cent. No purification steps are necessary. Raman spectroscopy analysis shows a low-intensity or absent D band for FG, indicating that FG has among the lowest defect concentrations reported so far for graphene, and confirms the turbostratic stacking of FG, which is clearly distinguished from turbostratic graphite. The disordered orientation of FG layers facilitates its rapid exfoliation upon mixing during composite formation. The electric energy cost for FG synthesis is only about 7.2 kilojoules per gram, which could render FG suitable for use in bulk composites of plastic, metals, plywood, concrete and other building materials.

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Luong, D. X., Bets, K. V., Algozeeb, W. A., Stanford, M. G., Kittrell, C., Chen, W., … Tour, J. M. (2020). Gram-scale bottom-up flash graphene synthesis. Nature, 577(7792), 647–651. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-1938-0

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