Technology

High-Quality Graphene Produced by Baking in Microwave Oven

graphene oven

Graphene is the subject of many studies currently being conducted. This is due to its amazing properties – it has been described as a hundred times tougher than steel, rapidly dissipates heat and conducts electricity better than copper. These characteristics make it suitable for a whole host of applications such as catalysts for fuel cells, electrodes for batteries and printable electronics.

The simplest way to produce large quantities of graphene is to use chemicals to exfoliate graphite into separate graphene sheets. Side reactions do however occur when using this method as graphene oxide is formed. As this material does not conduct electrically, it is less useful for using in products. A major challenge for the researchers working on graphene over the past twenty years has been to find a way to remove oxygen from graphene oxide to obtain high-quality graphene. The pristine atomic structure of graphene is distorted by oxygen and it degrades the sought after properties.

Rutgers University engineers have discovered an easy method to produce high-quality graphene – bake the compound in a common microwave oven. Manish Chhowalla, professor and associate chair in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Rutgers’ School of Engineering, heralds this discovery as a major breakthrough in the graphene field. The microwave treatment results in graphene that is of an exceptionally high quality, with properties close to those found in pristine graphene.

Chhowalla, who is also the director of the Rutgers Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology, credits the discovery to post-doctoral associates and undergraduate students in the department and noted that it is rare to have undergraduates as co-authors of a science paper.

Baking the exfoliated graphene oxide in a household 1,000-watt microwave oven for just one second eliminates almost all of the oxygen from the graphene oxide.

The study was published in the journal Science.