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Is graphene ready for commercial use?

19 May 2015  | Paul Buckley

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Graphene may soon be used on a commercial scale after a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, using chemical vapour deposition, fabricated graphene/polymer composites, 2in x 2in sheets that feature one-atom thick hexagonally arranged carbon atoms.

Graphene, which is stronger and stiffer than carbon fibre, has proved impractical to employ on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material.


The research team, which is led by ORNL's Ivan Vlassiouk, has fabricated the graphene/polymer composite sheets that could pave the way for a new era in flexible electronics. If Vlassiouk and his team are able to reduce the cost and demonstrate scalability, then graphene will soon be used in a wide variety of electronics (displays, printed electronics, thermal management) and energy (photovoltaics, filtration, energy storage) applications.

The findings are reported in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

"Before our work, superb mechanical properties of graphene were shown at a micro scale," said Vlassiouk, a member of ORNL's Energy and Transportation Science Division. "We have extended this to a larger scale, which considerably extends the potential applications and market for graphene."

While most approaches for polymer nanocomposition construction employ tiny flakes of graphene or other carbon nanomaterials that are difficult to disperse in the polymer, Vlassiouk's team used larger sheets of graphene, which eliminates the flake dispersion and agglomeration problems and allows the material to better conduct electricity with less actual graphene in the polymer.

"In our case, we were able to use chemical vapour deposition to make a nanocomposite laminate that is electrically conductive with graphene loading that is 50 times less compared to current state-of-the-art samples," Vlassiouk said. This is a key to making the material competitive on the market.

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