How to make Graphene at home

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How to make Graphene at home

Post by Cr6 on Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:57 am

A few links on different approaches:

How to make Graphene at home

It turns out that many readers want to make graphene at home, so here's a spoiler: it is possible to create small quantities of homemade graphene by yourself! However, although possible, it's not easy to make considerable amounts. In fact, as of this writing, scientists still have no clue how to efficiently make graphene in large quantities and high qualities, because the technological processes have not yet been developed. Still, it's pretty trivial to make DIY graphene sheets in small quantities.

The bits you will be able to make in DIY conditions will be only a few nanometers in length, so forget about macroscopic graphene sheets or strips. The largest piece of graphene that you can make yourself is about 0.25mm2 (but you'll make a lot of them). That's not much larger than the area of the dot in an exclamation mark on this webpage! In industrial uses, scientists make transistors with gate lengths of under 25nm... so your dot-sized piece of graphene, although it looks insignificantly small to you, could be used to make hundreds of transistors. Still interested in making graphene? Great, read on!

Method 1: Sticky-tape

The first DIY method is to use a lead pencil to deposit a thick layer of graphite onto a paper. Then use ordinary sticky tape to peel off a layer of graphite from the paper. Use another piece of sticky tape to remove a layer of graphite from the first sticky tape. Then, use a third piece of unused sticky tape to remove a layer from the second piece of sticky tape, an so on. Eventually, the graphite layers will get thinner and thinner, and you will end up with graphene, which is single-layer graphite in the strict sense, or bi-layer or few-layer graphite (which acts almost like graphene in certain uses). Even though this way of making graphene is only a proof-of-concept, the sticky tape method works. It takes patience and time, but it's the DIY method which the Manchester group used in 2004. And remember, they actually won a nobel prize for their work, so there's no messing with sticky tape!

Method 2: The kitchen blender

A group of scientists had their article published on April 20th 2014, in which they describe how to make graphene using an approach called liquid shear exfolation. You can find the article abstract here but the full article is behind a paywall.

Shear exfoliation in liquids starts by pouring powdered crystal in a liquid, and then using a shear mixer to separate (exfoliate) layers of material from the crystal. The liquid that is used in such processes is chosen so that the small graphene particles don't clump back together, and the result is a liquid suspension of graphene. The suspension can then be dried to obtain graphene nanoflakes, or it could be directly used in later technological processes, such as making of graphene coatings and others.

So, how do you make graphene at home using this method? Well, you can replace the shear mixer with a kitchen blender (since shear mixing is a fancy word for high-tech blending), and instead of special liquids you can use water and dish detergent. The detergent is added so that the particles don't clump, and acts as a surfactant. A great source of graphite powder are graphite pencils. Simply powder a few pencil leads and add the powder to the detergent solution, then blend for a while. Unless you have access to special microscopes and other equipment, you will probably be unable to confirm the existence of graphene in your detergent solution, but there's a quick rule of thumb which you can use to estimate the particle size. Generally speaking, if the graphene particles are too big, they will sink to the bottom of the vessel, while if they are smaller, they will float to the top. Nanoparticles are so small that they will be suspended in mid-water, and this is what you're aiming for if you want to make graphene. After you make enough graphene particles, you might want to filter the suspension and leave it to dry.

That being said, although this method of making graphene was described in the paper mentioned above and it worked for the researchers, don't get too excited about doing it at home this way. It's messy and creates very small nano-flakes of graphene, not something to brag to your friends about, unless you have a high tech lab in your basement and intend to use them to make graphene transistors. On the other hand, this technology, along with sonication assisted liquid phase exfoliation might define how graphene is made in the future in industrial settings, because of its scalability.

Method 3: DVD burner - LightScribe technology approach

To make graphene using this method, the recipe calls for a DVD computer drive with LightScribe technology as well as some graphite oxide. You may obtain graphite oxide from a manufacturer, or you can make some graphite oxide at home for this experiment. If you want to find out how to make graphite oxide at home, scroll down to the next section

Graphite oxide is water-soluble, so after mixing it with water, carefully pour it on a DVD disc. Make sure that the graphite oxide solution is evenly distributed on the plastic surface of the disc. After the solution has dried and created a film of graphite oxide on the disc, place the disc into the DVD drive, film-side down. Use the LightScribe software to burn in the layer of oxide. The areas of the film which come into contact with the laser beam will be turned into graphene. The laser beam causes a chemical reduction which reduces graphite oxide to graphene. The resulting graphene layer should be carefully removed from the disc and cut into appropriate sized pieces. These pieces can be used directly to create a graphene supercapacitor! This is perhaps the easiest way to make graphene at home, but it assumes that you have access to graphite oxide and a Laserscribe drive.

One reader suggested that the LightScribe DVD laser can be replaced using a simple Xenon flash. If you have a photo-flash, you could try this approach as well, and report the results to us at "contact at our site domain". Another tip: do NOT do this if you are not comfortable with voiding the warranty of the DVD burner.


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