Melbourne: A cheap and quick way to manufacture the 'wonder material' graphene using tea tree extract has been developed by scientists, including one of Indian-origin.
Graphene has been grown from materials as diverse as plastic, cockroaches, and dog feces, and can theoretically be grown from any carbon source.
However, scientists are still looking for a graphene precursor and growth method that is sustainable, scalable, and economically feasible, since these are all requirements for realizing widespread commercialization of graphene-based devices.
Now, researchers at James Cook University in Australia, and collaborators from institutions in Australia, Singapore, Japan, and the US have grown graphene from the tea tree plant Melaleuca alternifolia, that is used to make essential oils in traditional medicine.
They demonstrated that they could fabricate large-area, nearly defect-free graphene films from tea tree oil in as little as a few seconds to a few minutes, whereas current growth methods usually take several hours.
Unlike current methods, the new method also works at relatively low temperatures, does not require catalysts, and does not rely on methane or other nonrenewable, toxic, or explosive precursors.
"This research realises fabrication of good-quality, few-layer graphene from an environmentally friendly precursor," Professor Mohan V Jacob at James Cook University told Phys.Org.
"Overall, large-area graphene fabrication using a fast, environmentally friendly precursor and process at a relatively low fabrication temperature is the major significance of this work," said Jacob.
Researchers used a technique called plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition. They fed the vaporized tea tree extract into a heated tube, much in the same way as done with methane gas in previous versions.
As soon as they switched the plasma on using electrodes, the vapour was almost instantly transformed into graphene film.