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Polymer-based graphene substitute is easy to mass-produce


July 4, 2014

KIST researchers have developed a material that has properties similar to graphene but is easy to mass-produce

KIST researchers have developed a material that has properties similar to graphene but is easy to mass-produce

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For all the attention graphene gets thanks to its impressive list of properties, how many of us have actually encountered it in anything other than its raw graphite form? Show of hands. No-one? That's because it is still difficult to mass-produce without introducing defects. Now a team at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has developed a graphene substitute from plastic that offers the benefits of graphene for use in solar cells and semiconductor chips, but is easy to mass-produce.

The technique that currently shows the greatest potential for producing high quality graphene at large scales is chemical vapor deposition (CVD). This is a complicated eight-step process whereby gaseous reactants are deposited onto a metal film substrate that acts as a catalyst. Once the graphene is formed, it needs to be removed from the metal substrate and transferred to another board, such as a solar cell substrate, which runs the risk of wrinkling or cracking the graphene.

The KIST team claims the process used to produce its new synthesized carbon nanosheets is much simpler, involving a two-steps that are catalyst- and transfer-free. Based on the same continuous process used to mass-produce carbon fiber, the researchers say it also faces a much easier transition to full-scale commercialization. Furthermore, the team was able to show that the nanosheets can be used directly as transparent electrodes for organic solar cells without requiring any additional processing.

Put (very) simply, to produce carbon nanosheets with properties similar to graphene, the researchers spin-coated a polymer solution onto a quartz substrate and heat-treated it at 1,200° C (2,192° F). They claim that by eliminating the need for a metal substrate or for transferring the nanosheets to another board, they bypass the steps that are likely to lead to defects in the material.

"[The process] is expected to be applied for commercialization of transparent and conductive 2D carbon materials without difficulty since this process is based on the continuous and mass-produced process of carbon fiber," said Dr. Han Ik Joh who led the research team.

The team's work is detailed in a paper published in the journal Nanoscale.

Source: KIST

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

IIRC, Korea's made materials technology a national focus with a $1.5 billion dollar program- looks like it's getting results.


It now appears that all of the hype surrounding graphene may actually have a chance of coming true.

Bruce H. Anderson

Don't even have real graphene in mass produced products and already someone's inventing a cheap, plastic knockoff. ;-)

Gregg Eshelman

Some fascinating discovery is still just a labtoy until it can be made a pricepoint that is useful and not "Unobtainium".

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