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The Almighty Buck Science

$10 Bet Brings Researchers Closer to Industrial Scale Graphene Production 74

AaronW writes: After trying and failing to convince Nina Kovtyukhona to test her technique of separating layers of graphite and boron nitride to instead try graphene, Thomas E. Mallouk made a bet with Nina that her technique method would work. If it worked, Nina would owe him $10. If it didn't, he would owe her $100. The result was published in Nature yesterday (abstract). Thomas is $10 richer, and we are a step closer to industrial scale graphene production.
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$10 Bet Brings Researchers Closer to Industrial Scale Graphene Production

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  • Mistake in summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 08, 2014 @07:31PM (#47858049)

    Nature and Nature Chemistry are not the same journal.

  • Incomprehensible (Score:5, Informative)

    by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 08, 2014 @07:41PM (#47858103)

    This summary truly is fucking. It's incomprehensible. Thanks for the editing rubber-stamp, Soulskill.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This summary truly is fucking. It's incomprehensible.

      That's not the summary, that's your reading level.

      It's concise, and the entire thing is summarized in the first two sentences.

      Read more better.

  • what ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @07:42PM (#47858105)

    So a, presumably, leading scientist balked at doing some research work for, presumably, sound technical and professional reasons, but all it took was the prospect of winning $100 to persuade her otherwise.

    This field needs to pay more!

    • Re:what ? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @08:56PM (#47858527)

      So a, presumably, leading scientist balked at doing some research work for, presumably, sound technical and professional reasons, but all it took was the prospect of winning $100 to persuade her otherwise.

      Except that she lost $10. If she was purely financially motivated, she would have faked a negative result, and collected the $100.

      • So we need gambling parlors instead of smoking lounges. ;) Clearly, that will stimulate scientific achievement!

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      I see from the article that the reason she didn't want to try her technique on graphene was because the consensus of literature on the subject was that her technique couldn't possibly work.
      • Re:what ? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kwbauer ( 1677400 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @11:58PM (#47859325)

        " the consensus of literature on the subject was that her technique couldn't possibly work."
        In other words, the science was settled, discussion was over and then we found out it wasn't.

      • From the article:

        "Kovtyukhova tried leaving out various agents and found that the oxidizing agent wasn't necessary for the reaction to take place." when using her mixture of acids (without the oxidizing agent) on boron nitride (a compound with a structure similar to graphite).

        Then she balked at trying the same mixture on graphite based on "the extensive literature saying that the oxidizing agent was required". Why? Why she tried to remove that frigging agent in the first place then?

        I mean: She knew that her

        • Re: what ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2014 @12:44AM (#47859479)

          Impostor syndrome - the feeling that everyone else is more qualified than you - is especially common in women in STEM fields. Makes you prone to thinking that your own ideas and innovations can't be right if they contradict established wisdom

          • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

            That would make sense to me. Often times when you run into something that seems simple but nobody does it, turns out you missed something in your assessment about either how well it works or how much work is involved or even that it doesn't work.

            It reminds me of one of the things I noticed in my own profession as a sysadmin. Generally, if I toss relevant facts into google, and it doesn't pop up that somebody else had the same problem, then I likely missed something right there in the documentation. Turns ou

          • What if you're right, and you've been promoted above your ability level due to the fact that you belong to an underrepresented group?
            • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

              Luckily, my job pays well enough that my savings account + unemployment can cover me for a while, once management finally wakes up and realizes I'm posting on Slashdot at work. :)

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      You need to learn a bit more about human behaviour. This is more about preasure then about money. Basicaly what he was saying was "Chicken!" in a more adult version.
      This is like the bet in a pub, where you know you will losse, but you still pay up the beer to see the trick.
      This is just people goofing around a bit, like people do when they interact with each other. I know, this is /. so the concept might not be something people know, but people goof around when they work together.

  • bet women "you won't do that."
  • This story does more of explaining what a bet is then describing the article.
  • The horror (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaliann ( 1316559 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @08:22PM (#47858351)

    I live in fear of still being a lab rat in someone else's lab 14 years after I've earned my PhD and contributed pioneering advances to my field.

    Oh science, I love you, but there is some scary shit out there for those of us who don't get tenure. Or even a faculty position. Yikes.

    • Man up and make a company. Public funding isn't the only funding. If your ideas are valuable, market them. Summon the JC Venter in you.

  • by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @08:41PM (#47858433)

    The summary was not clear so here is my version based on my understanding of the work:

    Graphite is composed of many randomly oriented and sized layers of graphene. Intercalation is a process where compounds or ions can be inserted between the layers of a layered material such as graphite. These Penn State reseachers have discovered a new way to perform this intercalation by leaving out a strong oxidizing agent which was thought to be necessary but would damage the graphene.

    The research advisor Thomas E. Mallouk suggested trying it without the oxidizer. The researcher Nina Kovtyukhona was reluctant to perform this experiment as she thought it would be a failure. Her advisor persuaded her to try it by making a bet that he would pay her $100 if it succeeded, and she would pay him $10 if she failed. The experiment was a success, and researchers now have a new avenue to explore for synthesizing graphene.

    My personal thought is that while this is scientifically interesting and could lead to some engineering benefits down the road this will not lead to large scale production of graphene since it is just splitting apart graphene sheets from graphite, and these sheets are generally quite small. Large scale production to me would be getting fairly good uniform growth or deposition of graphene over large areas of a substrate which is of the order of 1cm or larger so that it can eventually be scaled up to the 30cm and 45cm wafers in the silicon industry. So unless other researchers come up with a way to make a graphene boule composed of decent sized graphene sheets this technique does not seem useful for commercial electronics.

    One things which makes graphene research expensive is that most growth methods end up with just little flecks of graphene material in random locations on a substrate, so a researcher or technician has to manually search for these and place contacts and gates on them using a manual lithography tool. It could even be automated but this would still be orders or magnitude slower than competing technologies.

    A new route to making graphene has been discovered that could make the 21st century's wonder material easier to ramp up to industrial scale.

    Whenever a press release uses language like this I am forced to point out that graphene so far has had zero compelling results for electronics applications. It is soundly beat by silicon and III-V semiconductors in terms of speed and dynamic range. Graphene transistors can be made reasonably fast (for certain but not all definitions of fast) but even so the signals that they can handle are only very tiny because of the lack of a bandgap. It has some wonderful properties but also some terrible ones which make its applicability suspect.

    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      large scale production for me would be taking two metre wide, three metre long sheets of monatomically thin graphene and making hammocks out of them.

      Come back when they've managed *that*. :)

      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        " taking two metre wide, three metre long sheets of monatomically thin graphene and making hammocks out of them."

        Because existing materials aren't strong enough to make a hammock that can support the average american?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Or the average american is two meters wide by 3 meters wide.

        • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

          no because something that folds down to something the size of an emergency blanket yet folds out to something you could tiw between two trees and go to sleep in, would be extremely useful for rural survivalists.

          FTR, I'm English, but nobody's perfect, eh?

      • Well in addition to falling apart in your hands there are some concerns that free graphene can be carcinogenic in a similar fashion to asbestos... so I'll let you try the hammock first ;)

        • So, it's fine as long as we don't go around breaking it up and dispersing it into the air, and our solution if it ever becomes commonplace will not be to just stop using it in new construction and take extra care when removing old construction, but to actively go in and smash up the walls of old buildings to make sure it gets broken up and dispersed to maximum effect in an occupied building.

    • by SpammersAreScum ( 697628 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @09:59PM (#47858823)

      The summary was not clear so here is my version based on my understanding of the work:

      ...

      The research advisor Thomas E. Mallouk suggested trying it without the oxidizer. The researcher Nina Kovtyukhona was reluctant to perform this experiment as she thought it would be a failure. Her advisor persuaded her to try it by making a bet that he would pay her $100 if it succeeded, and she would pay him $10 if she failed. The experiment was a success, and researchers now have a new avenue to explore for synthesizing graphene.

      From the article:

      "I kept asking her to try it and she kept saying no," Mallouk said. "Finally, we made a bet, and to make it interesting I gave her odds. If the reaction didn't work I would owe her $100, and if it did she would owe me $10. I have the ten dollar bill on my wall with a nice Post-it note from Nina complimenting my chemical intuition."

      Looks like you got it backwards in your version.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "Whenever a press release uses language like this I am forced to point out that graphene so far has had zero compelling results for electronics applications. It is soundly beat by silicon and III-V semiconductors in terms of speed and dynamic range."

      And III-V group semiconductors SUCK DICK AS A BATTERY.

      Please think a little further ahead than processors, please.

  • by Ocker3 ( 1232550 ) on Monday September 08, 2014 @08:48PM (#47858481)
    I'm betting that the bet in the story is either a fiction (to get journalists to cover the story) or a regular part of some lab's cultures "That'll Never work!" "Bet you it will!" "How Much" "10 gets you 100, I'll put it in writing" "You're on!" "Ooh, that's interesting..."
    • If it wasn't for the apparent age of the images when I googled the names, I swear it was just a couple of frat kids not wanting to do any extra work but still curious about the results.

      I can imagine this bet taking place over a kegger.

    • If it's a fiction it's a brilliant one which helps this story stand out from all of the other "Fantastic New Innovation in Graphene Which Will Lead to Large Scale Production" press releases that get put out every year.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not quite the same as a bet, but there is some rich history in "prize" problems in mathematics, with a number of $100-500 problems out there. I know that Paul Erdo"s popularized this idea and that Ron Graham and Fan Chung continue it, but I'm unsure how common this is in other areas. The incentive to solve them is the source of the payment and the prestige associated with it rather than the cash value for the most part, unlike the Millennium Problems where the financial incentive is significant.

  • I didn't see any estimates of how to speed up the process, any informed commentators? See it's funded my a military grant, so won't that delay public uses?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My undergraduate thesis in Materials Engineering (from 2010) was on possible applications of Graphene in Li-Ion battery annodes. I referenced the 1999 paper by Kovtyukhova mentioned in the article. I work in an unrelated field now but good to see advancements still being made.

  • This is huge! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2014 @12:21AM (#47859401)

    I am super excited. The graphene capacitors from UCLA (about 18 months ago) can now be scaled up. They hired some company to try to scale up their tech, but maybe this finding can help. The implications for this is that new technologies are going to arrive in your hands and homes. Enjoy.

  • to test her technique of separating layers of graphite and boron nitride to instead try graphene

    What?

    technique method

    What?

    Still, well done to AaronW for actually taking the time to write a summary, and not just copy and paste a couple of paragraphs from the article.

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