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Materials

155: Flash Graphene

Problem:

The production of graphene has been held back due to cost.

Solution:

Flash graphene


A team lead by James M. Tour, nanotechnologist and both Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and Professor of Computer Science at Rice University in Houston, Texas, United States have developed a solution which can swiftly transform carbon from any source: food waste, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, wood clippings and biochar into bulk graphene flakes.

Flash graphene is made in 10 milliseconds by heating carbon-containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin (about 2,727° C). The team at Rice University hope to produce 2.2 lb (1 kg) (a day of flash graphene within two years, starting with a project recently funded by the Department of Energy to convert U.S.-sourced coal inexpensively into a much-higher-value building material.

In January 2021, the team at Rice turned their attention to Joule heating pyrolyzed plastic ash, a byproduct of plastic recycling processes so producing turbostratic graphene flakes. These can be directly added to other substances like films of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) that better resist water in packaging and cement paste and concrete, dramatically increasing their compressive strength.

Adding graphene from ash to Portland cement and concrete to produce stronger concrete means less concrete needs to be used in structures and roads. That curtails energy use and cuts pollutants from its manufacture.

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