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New technology could spur 'a graphene-driven industrial revolution'

The University of Exeter's new nanoCVD system reportedly grows graphene at a rate 100 times faster than traditional methods, and at one percent of the cost.

By Brooks Hays
An image of graphene captured using electron scanning microscopy. Photo by ESRF
An image of graphene captured using electron scanning microscopy. Photo by ESRF

EXETER, England, June 25 (UPI) -- Scientists at the University of Exeter say they've developed a way to make graphene better, cheaper, faster -- and at mass scale.

Lead researcher Monica Craciun says the technology, known as the nanoCVD system, promises to usher in "a graphene-driven industrial revolution."

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Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms, organized a honeycomb like structure. The material is super strong, flexible and conductive.

"The vision for a 'graphene-driven industrial revolution' is motivating intensive research on the synthesis of high quality and low cost graphene," Craciun said in a press release. "Currently, industrial graphene is produced using a technique called chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Although there have been significant advances in recent years in this technique, it is still an expensive and time consuming process."

Craciun and her colleagues, in cooperation with U.K.-based graphene company Moorfield, have tweaked CVD technology to develop a "cold wall" device. CVD technology mixes volatile vapors to create a desired deposited material (like a film of graphene) on a substrate.

The research team's new nanoCVD system reportedly grows graphene at a rate 100 times faster than traditional methods, and at one percent of the cost.

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"We are very excited about the potential of this breakthrough using Moorfield's technology and look forward to seeing where it can take the graphene industry in the future," said Jon Edgeworth, the company's technical director.

Researchers have used the device to build the first graphene-based transparent and flexible touch sensor, which features ferric chloride molecules sandwiched between two graphene layers. Scientists say the material could used to create flexible, electronic skin for robots.

"This breakthrough will nurture the birth of new generations of flexible electronics and offers exciting new opportunities for the realization of graphene-based disruptive technologies," said Saverio Russo, a professor at Exeter.

The new technology is detailed in the journal Advanced Materials.

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