Carbon-Based Waste Transformed Into Flash Graphene Thanks to New Process

The process developed at Rice University is faster and cheaper than other techniques.
Donna Fuscaldo

Carbon-based waste, including mixed plastic waste and rubber tires, can be turned into graphene flakes, thanks to a new process developed by Rice University. 

James Tour, Rice University lab chemist, developed a process to create flash graphene by heating carbon-containing materials at 3,000 Kelvin or about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


Any carbon content can be burned 

The material that is heated can be almost anything that has a carbon content including waste food plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, wood clippings, and biochar, Rice University said in a press release highlighting the work. 

The process also happens to be fast and cheap with the flash graphene technique converting a ton of waste into graphene for a fraction of the cost of other graphene producing methods available today.   

 “This is a big deal, The world throws out 30% to 40% of all food, because it goes bad, and plastic waste is of worldwide concern. We’ve already proven that any solid carbon-based matter, including mixed plastic waste and rubber tires, can be turned into graphene," said Tour in a press release. "With the present commercial price of graphene being $67,000 to $200,000 per ton, the prospects for this process look superb."

Flash graphene can help the environment too 

The flash graphene made as a result of the process can also have a big environmental impact. Tour pointed to cement as one example. He said that by strengthening concrete with graphene, industries could use less concrete for building. It would also cost less to manufacture and transport. The work was published in journal Nature

“Essentially, we’re trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills. We are converting those carbons into graphene and adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It’s a win-win environmental scenario using graphene," said Tour. 

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