Graphene can literally be made in a flash by using electricity to zap nearly anything that contains carbon, including discarded food and plastic, a new study finds.
Graphene is made of flexible, transparent sheets each just one carbon atom thick. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, lighter than paper, and more electrically and thermally conductive than copper. Currently the most common way to make graphene in bulk is via exfoliation. It works a bit like how you might exfoliate your skin, and involves sloughing layers of graphene off a block of graphite.
However, chemical exfoliation uses lots of acid and is very expensive, while exfoliation using sound energy or fast-flowing fluid pries off platelets of graphene that are often more than 20 layers thick. Scientists can also produce graphene by depositing it from a vapor onto a surface, but this only makes tiny amounts.