Engineers at Rutgers University have discovered an easy way to make graphene for flexible and printable electronics. Damien Voiry, a former Rutgers post-doctoral associate, Rutgers Professor Manish Chhowalla and postdoctoral associate Jieun Yang found that baking graphene oxide in an everyday 1,000-watt microwave oven can eliminate virtually all of the oxygen from graphene oxide.

This is important because typically, the easiest way to make large quantities of graphene is to exfoliate graphite into individual graphene sheets by using chemicals. However, this process involves oxygen reactions – forming graphene oxide, which is electrically non-conducting, making it less useful for products.

According to the university, removing oxygen from graphene oxide to obtain high-quality graphene has been a major challenge over the past two decades for the scientific community. Oxygen distorts the “pristine atomic structure” of graphene and negatively impacts its properties.

“This is a major advance in the graphene field,” said Chhowalla, a professor and associate chair in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Rutgers’ School of Engineering. “This simple microwave treatment leads to exceptionally high quality graphene with properties approaching those in pristine graphene.”

Graphene a carbon-based material that is 100 times tougher than steel, conducts electricity better than copper and rapidly dissipates heat, making it useful for many applications, including printable electronics, electrodes for batteries and catalysts for fuel cells. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy found a way to apply graphene to large-scale commercial use.

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