Synthesizing graphene in your basement laboratory


We’re surprised that we haven’t come across any of [Robert Murray-Smith's] projects before. Looking through his collection of YouTube uploads proves that he’s a very active amateur chemist (we assume this is a hobby because he performs the experiment in a mayonnaise jar). The video we’re featuring today is about ten minutes of his technique for synthesizing graphene. The video can be watched after the break. Be warned that the audio doesn’t sync with the video because he overdubbed the presentation to fix up the poor audio quality from the original.

Graphene is something of a compound-du-jour when it comes to electronic research. You may remember reading about using DVD burners to make graphene film that will go into thinks like super-capacitors to replace batteries. [Robert] starts off his process with a jar of 98% sulfuric acid and 75% phosphoric acid. He pours in powdered graphite (chemical proportions are important here) and gives it a swirl. Next some potassium permanganate is added over about five or ten minutes. From there it goes on the stir plate for three days of constant stirring. During this time the solution will go from green to brown, indicating the presence of graphene oxide.

He goes on from there, but it’s clear he hasn’t found an iron-clad route to his end goal of isolating the graphene for use in constructing things like those super-capcitors we mentioned earlier. If you’ve got a home lab and some interest perhaps you can contribute to his efforts.

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Making graphene with a DVD burner


A group of researchers have figured out how to produce graphene using a DVD drive. This discovery helps clear the path for mass production of the substance, which was discovered in the late 1980′s. More recently, the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to a team that produced two-dimensional graphene; a substance one just atom thick. One method of doing so used Scotch tape and is mentioned in the video after the break as a technique that works but is not feasible for large-scale production.

The process seen here starts with graphite oxide because it can be suspended in water. This allows a lab technician to evenly distribute the substance on a plastic surface. Note the use of optical discs. The second part of the process involves hitting the dried layer of graphite oxide with a laser. It just so happens that this can be done with a consumer DVD drive. The result is graphene that can be used in circuits and may have potential as a fantastic super-capacitor.

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