Rutgers engineers use microwaves to make graphene

Rutgers experts discover an easy way to make graphene for flexible and printable electronics, energy storage and catalysis.

Related Topics:

Rutgers University engineers have discovered a new “simple” method for producing graphene that can be used in next-generation electronic and energy devices. The new simple method? Bake the compound in a microwave oven.

“This is a major advance in the graphene field,” says Manish Chhowalla, 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.”

The discovery was made by post-doctoral associates and undergraduate students in the department, says Chhowalla, who is also the director of the Rutgers Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology.

Graphene – 100 times tougher than steel – conducts electricity better than copper and rapidly dissipates heat. Large-scale production of graphene is necessary for applications such as printable electronics, electrodes for batteries and catalysts for fuel cells.

The easiest way to make large quantities of graphene is to exfoliate graphite into individual graphene sheets by using chemicals. The downside of this approach is that side reactions occur with oxygen – forming graphene oxide that is electrically nonconducting, which makes it less useful for products.

Removing oxygen from graphene oxide to obtain high-quality graphene has been a major challenge over the past two decades for the scientific community working on graphene. Oxygen distorts the pristine atomic structure of graphene and degrades its properties.

Chhowalla and his group members found that baking the exfoliated graphene oxide for just one second in a 1,000­ watt microwave oven, like those used in households across America, can eliminate virtually all of the oxygen from graphene oxide.

The study’s lead authors are Damien Voiry, a former Rutgers post­
 doctoral associate in Chhowalla’s Nanomaterials & Devices Group 
who is now at the University of Montpellier in France, and Jieun
 Yang, a post­ doctoral associate in Chhowalla’s group. Other authors 
include Jacob Kupferberg, who will be a Rutgers senior this fall; 
graduate student Raymond Fullon; Calvin Lee, who graduated in
 2015; Hu Young Jeong and Hyeon Suk Shin from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea; and Chhowalla.

The discovery is documented in a study published today in the journal Science.