Low loss conductors formed in common microwave oven

Graphene is a form of carbon arranged in a honeycomb- shaped lattice just one atom thick. It’s of particular interest in relation to renewable energy as it is the best conductor of electricity and could be used to create the next generation of solar cells, energy storage, and super conductors.

Researchers have discovered a very simple way to make high quality graphene – zap it in a microwave oven for just a couple of seconds.

Graphene is sourced from graphite and is usually created by an exfoliation process using chemicals to “peel” off the layers. However, exposure to oxygen during the process also creates graphene oxide; which is non-conducting. Removing the oxygen has been a significant challenge for 20 years, but it’s a problem that may now have been solved by two research teams approaching the issue in different ways.

In the first, Rutger University researchers found that by baking the exfoliated graphene oxide for just one or two seconds in a 1,000-watt microwave oven, virtually all of the oxygen from graphene oxide can be eliminated.

Manish Chhowalla, professor and associate chair in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Rutgers’ School of Engineering, said the discovery is a major advance.

“This simple microwave treatment leads to exceptionally high quality graphene with properties approaching those in pristine graphene,” he stated.

The team’s discovery has been documented in a study published in the journal Science.

Graphene could likely become the low-loss wire of future electric grids, saving energy and reducing Earth’s carbon load.

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