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A continuous process to make graphene

By Tetsuo Satoh |

An inexpensive and scalable process that uses supercritical (SC) liquids to make large quantities of graphene is being developed by the group of professor Itaru Honma at the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials, Tohoku University (Sendai; db.tagen.tohoku.ac.jp), in collaboration with Showa Denko K.K. (SDK; Tokyo, both Japan; www.sdk.co.jp). The process features a flow-type loop reactor that enables continuous treatment with SC ethanol, which penetrates the graphite and causes exfoliation. SC treatment requires just 80 s, which is one hundredth the time required by batch reactors, says Honma. An 80% graphene yield is achieved after 48 exfoliation cycles of repeated adiabatic heating (to 400°C) and cooling in the loop reactor. The researchers believe the new process is promising as a cost-effective method for mass-production of graphene, opening the door for next-generation electronics materials used for large-scale lithium-ion batteries and high-strength, low-weight electronic materials. SDK is now studying the possibility of scaling up the process for commercializing materials. Honma says first commercial products will require at least three years to develop.
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