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Scientists at Rice University have succeeded in creating graphene out of a highly renewable and common resource – wood.
In 2014, a team of chemists led by James Tour at the school developed a process to make a 3D graphene foam by heating a polymer surface with a laser. It’s this technique, dubbed laser-induced graphene (LIG), that was utilized in the latest advancement.
As New Atlas highlights, the issue with LIG is that it can only be created using a specific type of plastic called polyimide… that is, until recently.
The team at Rice eventually realized that some types of wood – pine, for example – have a similar mechanical structure to polyimide. Armed with that knowledge, they used an industrial laser to heat a piece of pine inside an oxygen-free environment which caused the surface of the wood to flake up into graphene foam.
Through trial and error, they found that 70 percent laser power produced the best possible pine laser-induced graphene, or P-LIG.
While additional work is needed, the team ultimately hopes that wood could one day help reduce the growing e-waste issue.
"Graphene is a thin sheet of a naturally occurring mineral, graphite, so we would be sending it back to the ground from which it came along with the wood platform instead of to a landfill full of electronics parts," Tour said.
Full details on the technique have been published in the academic journal Advanced Materials.