A little while back I wrote some of the different ways physicists and engineers are attacking the challenge of making large amounts of high-quality graphene. Graphene is a thin sheet of carbon atoms that could help disperse heat within electronic devices (See: Graphene: a hot new material for keeping electronics cool).
Derived from graphite, graphene is only one-atom thick but mechanically strong, provides great electron mobility and has superb thermal conductivity.
In a study published in Nature Nanotechnology, researchers describe a graphene-producing technique in which they could dissolve up to two grams of graphite in a liter of chlorosulphonic acid, a common industrial solvent. Afterward, the individual sheets of graphene within the graphite peeled apart easily.
Matteo Pasquali, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University, said in a statement:
"Our method yields very pure material, and it is based on bulk fluid-processing techniques that have long been used by the chemical industry."
From the highly concentrated graphene solution, the researchers made thin films capable of conducting electricity. The films may have implications for producing touch screens.
In the solution, liquid crystal also formed. According to the authors, the liquid crystals might be spun into graphene fibers. Large quantities of these carbon fibers could prove useful for strong carbon composites within the aerospace, construction, and automotive industries.