A team of researchers at Kansas State University has discovered a way to mass-produce graphene with three ingredients: hydrocarbon gas, oxygen and a spark plug. The technique involves filling a chamber with acetylene or ethylene gas and oxygen and using a vehicle spark plug to create a contained detonation - all that's left then, according to the team, is collecting the graphene that forms afterward.
The researchers state that this is a viable process to make graphene; they explain that the process has many positive properties, like economic feasibility, the possibility for large-scale production and the lack of hazardous chemicals. What might be the best property of all is that the energy required to make a gram of graphene through this process is much lower than other processes.
The researchers initially set out to develop and patent carbon soot aerosol gels. They created the gels by filling a 17-liter aluminum chamber with acetylene gas and oxygen. Using a spark plug, they created a detonation in the chamber. The soot from the detonation formed aerosol gels that looked like "black angel food cake," according to the team. Further analysis, however, showed that the aerosol gel was actually graphene.
The research team is now working to improve the quality of the graphene and scale the laboratory process to an industrial level. They are upgrading some of the equipment to make it easier to get graphene from the chamber seconds - rather than minutes - after the detonation.