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Science Technology

MIT Discovers Way To Mass-Produce Graphene In Large Sheets (inhabitat.com) 62

New submitter Paige.Bennett writes: Up till now, graphene has been produced in small batches in labs. But MIT just found a way to mass-produce graphene in large sheets using a process that rolls out five centimeters of graphene each minute. The longest span so far was nearly four hours, which produced about 10 meters of graphene. According to MIT, here's how their conveyor belt system works: "The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a 'split-zone' design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene." The work has been published in the journal Materials and Interfaces.
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MIT Discovers Way To Mass-Produce Graphene In Large Sheets

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  • Methane? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Impossible. Methane is an evil substance which must be banned from existence, before the capitalist pigs use it to destroy the world.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @10:10PM (#56461921) Journal
    Now, finally, we can manufacture it in large enough quantities to worry about environmental problems!
  • From the title/summary it sounded like they had progressed to the point of making "square" sheets. As far as the article/video shows, it's really a copper coated ribbon? Still very impressive!
  • of the graphene product, I see the machine but the 'product' looks like a computer illustration. (sigh)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So glad we could wait over 10 years for this. Now where's the transparent aluminum I was promised? Hello Computer!

  • If this place had any actual engineers, the rate of production would have also been quantified in kg/s. And J/kg, too, with their current rig.

    • If this place had any actual engineers, the rate of production would have also been quantified in kg/s. And J/kg, too, with their current rig.

      I'm guessing you aren't from the US if you think actual engineers always us SI units. I'll agree that they SHOULD use SI units but the fact of the matter is that in the real world they often do not.

  • Is it useful? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @11:23PM (#56462113) Journal
    Not sure how useful a graphene-copper composite is... Article doesn't describe any steps beyond depositing the graphene onto the copper.
    • Not sure how useful a graphene-copper composite is... Article doesn't describe any steps beyond depositing the graphene onto the copper.

      The copper is removed in a standard process where (in part) the graphene is floated-off, and captured on a substrate by practice and luck.

      Having captured the monolayer, you can then make a test structure or device. It's standard.

  • again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2018 @11:35PM (#56462143)

    I'm a nanotechnologist. Actually, I founded a graphene chip company that actually has a product and customers (Nanomedical Diagnostics).

    There are two companies that already produce graphene roll to roll like this (Samsung and Grolltex). Not surprisingly, there's not much of a market for it. There are far fewer people working on graphene applications than on developing the raw material.

    There are a few reasons for this. First, investment in commercialization of graphene applications is not popular (because market research is a necessary skill to pitch a product - not so much with a commodity). Second, devices and applications are just harder to make. Most people in my field don't want to work on the kinds of problems that are common in manufacturing (or if they do, they go work for Intel).

    The result of all this is that it's actually very easy for someone like me to grow my own graphene (growth tech and know-how is cheap), and it's very hard for a graphene growth company to demonstrate applicability (meeting real industrial cost or QA targets).

    In short, a third source of graphene of this type is not needed.

    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      If companies are making it but noone is buying it, shouldn't that lead to it being cheap to purchase? Certainly someone can figure out a use for it if it's cheap enough. Even if it's not put in a retail box with "NEW! Now with Graphene nanotech!" engineers can incorporate it into construction, perhaps e.g. as a drop-in replacement for carbon fiber.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        If companies are making it but noone is buying it, shouldn't that lead to it being cheap to purchase?

        Nobody will make it in quantity if the price is below the cost of production (unless the manufacturer is Elon Musk).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        companies are losing money making it. They can set whatever price they want because at this point they don't really care if they sell all their inventory or not. In a way they save money if they just throw it away and would have been better off, in the short term, to have never manufactured it at all.

        Supply and demand assumes there is an operating market. There is no market for this yet, and that is what a few are trying to develop. Having a price war right now is not the right choice.

      • You would think that's how it would work, but we've had an oversupply of graphene material in the market for many years now, and the price is still significantly higher than the cost to make it yourself.

        I've tried talking with business and marketing people about this, and they say something about "perceived value" and "setting customer expectations." I expect you're right though, if they stopped selling at $10/mm^2 and sold at $0.1/mm^2, we'd see more applications being worked on.

    • There are also people not working on graphene applications because the cost of graphene is so high. If graphene base product gets cheaper and more stable, then graphene applications may follow.

    • MOD Parent up!

      He's right in every respect.

      The 'secret sauce' here is simply zone refining of the Cu grains to prepare the surface and maximize properly-oriented domains before the established CVD graphene-deposition itself.

    • by Optic7 ( 688717 )

      Given your expertise, I would love to hear your opinion on this other news story from a few days ago (about the use of graphene for filtering water): https://news.google.com/news/s... [google.com]

      • Opinion: That's another area where there's been enough university research (just do a Google scholar search for "graphene water filter" and see how far back the papers go). It may be a real opportunity (I don't know the water filtration business), but someone needs to actually work on commercializing it.

        • by Optic7 ( 688717 )

          Thanks for taking the time to respond. That makes sense and goes along with what you said in your initial post.

  • Sure, but when will we finally have Autonomous AI Crypto Blockchain Graphene? And what good is a sheet of graphene if we don't have 3D Printed Open Source Universal Basic Graphene for all?
  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Thursday April 19, 2018 @01:37AM (#56462415)

    I am surprised it has taken so long to actually get graphene production up to meaningful levels given the potential uses for the material.
    One would think that its potential to drastically increase the output while decreasing the energy requirements for desalinization alone would have have spurred more development.
    Not to mention fast charging batteries, insulation, structural components in cars and aircraft, solar cells and tons of other pretty important things.

    Would be nice to have super light weight cars.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      nice to have super light weight cars.

      Not for the first people ending up in traffic accidents in one where the other side has a car with mass

      • the total energy of the collision is reduced, even if my car bounces away like a ping-pong ball.

        • Right, like when Will Smith's car was totaled by the robotic truck in "I, Robot"... it moved like it weighed 500 lbs.

  • Does that mean we can all have our violines mass produced?

  • Am I the only one here who expects a sheet to have two dimensions? I see that the process produced 10m of graphene. What is the other dimension? If it doesn't have one, then I'd call it a fiber. If it is 1cm, I'd call it a ribbon. The paywalled scientific article has a picture that looks more like a small piece of Scotch tape.

    • Am I the only one here who expects a sheet to have two dimensions? I see that the process produced 10m of graphene. What is the other dimension? If it doesn't have one, then I'd call it a fiber. If it is 1cm, I'd call it a ribbon. The paywalled scientific article has a picture that looks more like a small piece of Scotch tape.

      It is a 1-cm-wide tape/ribbon Cu substrate.

      1 cm x 1 m might be a 'sample run'. Or 100 m. Graphene domain-size is micrometer-scale (usually), so scale-up to a 1-meter-wide sheet would be possible if it were cheap and easy to hot-roll copper down to ribbon that wide. I don't think that is the case here. Marketing. . .

  • Now we can get on with creating the Space Elevator of Science speculation.

    Will it work? Lets just build one and find out.

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