DIY Graphene

I came across a much inspiring video about some scientists at UCLA who successfully made some graphene and using only commercially available equipment doing it.

After watching this I just had to look in to what it would take to make some graphene and perhaps a super capacitor or two of my own. Graphene is a fascinating material and I believe there are hundreds of uses for it yet to be discovered, but again to be able to discover something to use it for I need to have some. So what do I need to rustle up some graphene?

Shopping list for DIY graphene

  • Graphite oxide
  • Light scribe capable DVD burner 
  • Light scribe DVD
  • Substrate
  • Sonicator
  • Pippette

Additional items for super capacitor

  • Ion-porous separator
  • Electrolyte

Graphite oxide

In the report written by Maher F. El-Kady & co they stated that they used a mix of 3.7mg graphite oxide in 1 mL water.

I did some empirical testing on how much water it takes to cover an area as large as a CD and it was around 10ml. So to make a piece of graphene the size of a CD we need 37 mg graphite oxide.

I have found one supplier, although it wasn’t easy, that sells graphite oxide for 120$ per gram and is willing to ship it to me. The price for the graphite oxide per CD would be somewhere around 0.12 * 37 = 4.4$.

Light scribe capable DVD burner / Light scribe DVD

This is probably the object on the list that would be the easiest to get a hold of. A Light scribe capable DVD-writer cost about 40$ here in Sweden and the Light scribe media is about 1$ a piece.

Substrate

Although it would be possible to make the graphene straight on to the DVD media it would not be very practical since one of the properties of graphene is that it is thin and flexible and a DVD is pretty far both from thin and flexible. What makes a bit more sense is to have some material between the DVD and the graphite oxide that acts as a carrier and also perhaps as an electrode. Maher F. El-Kady & co tried a bunch of different substrates and here I belive there is plenty of room to experiment.

Substrates tried by Maher F. El-Kady & co

  • polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • aluminum foil
  • a porous nitrocellulose membrane
  • regular photocopy paper

Sonicator

To state that the researchers at UCLA used only commercially available equipment while making their Light scribe graphene (LSG) is a bit of a stretch. Although graphite oxide is water-soluble you can’t just put some graphite oxide powder in water and give it a stir like it was a cup of Nescafé, that would not disperse it good enough. What you need to do is to smash the graphite oxide powder with ultrasound using a sonicator probe and that is not something everyone has in their kitchen drawers at least not me.

The EpiShear™ Probe Sonicator

However using a proper sonicator probe might not be rely necessary in this case it might suffice using a ultrasonic cleaner instead and those are both much easier to obtain and also a lot cheeper (around 45-55$).

Pipette

Perhaps not so hard to get but I have to remember to get one. It might be possible to get the graphite oxide solution on to the substrate using some other thing but I think a pipette is a good investment.

Conclutions

So far it feels like making your own graphene is far from impossible but at the same time it is not super easy. I would have to make some investments as well. 0.5 g of graphite oxide would in theory allow me to make 13 ”graphene DVDs” but I would say that a more reasonable number is 8-10 DVDs.

0.5 g graphite oxide, 60$

Light scribe DVD writer, 40$

Light scribe DVD (10 pieces), 10$

Ultrasound cleaner, 50$

Pipette, 5$

A total of 165$ and then add some stretch to that budget brings it to a grand total of 200$.

Update: To see videos where the process described in this post is put into practice check out my another post ”DIY Graphene Videos” about some of the other people online who are working hands on with DIY Graphene experiments.

Sources:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2012/03/14/335.6074.1326.DC1/El-Kady-SOM.pdf

http://cleantechnica.com/2012/06/21/polish-researchers-develop-low-cost-graphene/

http://dangerousprototypes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3803&p=38342

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  1. Pingback: DIY graphene videos | jenslabs
  2. Bob Rich

    The ultrasonic ‘beam’ from Halloween nebulizers/fog generators might also work. They generally operate by vibrating a ceramic plate at ~2.4Mhz and create a very directional beam of intense ultrasonic ‘sound’. If you put your finger above one that is submerged, you will quickly find out how powerful it is. They can be had easily for ~$10-20 US.

  3. Petes

    I wonder why you can’t simply smash graphite really good with a mortar to turn it into graphene?

  4. Conundrum

    Neat, I might try this experiment as my hoarding collection includes a few LS burners.

    Another useful tip, when these break a lot of the time its the IR diode which fries.
    If you cross wire the diodes together (email me for the exact wiring as I have yet to try it) it should work with the red diode
    and burn a lot faster into the bargain.
    Kind regards, -A

  5. Conundrum

    Also, has anyone tried carefully scribing around the centre of the back side of the DVD, separating off the LS layer and conductive metal then burning the graphite oxide THROUGH the disk?
    Just a thought, as this metal is pretty robust and transparent if porated using boric acid first.

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