It has only been a decade since researchers successfully isolated graphene for the first time, but scientists are already developing increasingly sophisticated ways to make it. The latest effort comes out of MIT, where a team developed a way to work around one of the trickier aspects of graphene manufacturing.
Graphene is generally made in a high-temperature oven, where it pulls out of the air and deposits on a sheet of metal like copper or nickel.
“To make it useful, you have to get it off the metal and onto a substrate, such as a silicon wafer or a polymer sheet, or something larger like a sheet of glass,” MIT team lead A. John Hart said in a release. “But the process of transferring it has become much more frustrating than the process of growing the graphene itself, and can damage and contaminate the graphene.”
The team got around the need to transfer the graphene by making a sort of metal sandwich; instead of just growing the graphene on one side of a sheet of nickel, they grew it on both sides. The sandwich sat on a sheet of glass, so when the top layer of graphene and nickel were peeled away, it left a sheet of graphene on the glass. The combo is then ready to be integrated into a TV or mobile device screen.
The process isn’t just limited to glass. Graphene could also be grown on a flexible material that works well in solar cells or directly on silicon wafers.
“We’ve shown this mechanism can work. Now it’s a matter of improving the attributes needed to produce a high-performance graphene coating,” Hart added in the release.