Scientists conjure graphene out of cookies

August 5th, 2011 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 5 (IANS) Scientists can virtually conjure graphene, touted as a miracle material for its toughness and conductivity, out of just about anything - even cookies.

Graphene, an allotrope of carbon, was discovered by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004. They bagged the Nobel Prize for it in 2010.

Graduate students at the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour made graphene out of cookies when they invited Houston Girl Scouts of the US to their lab to show them how it is done.

Rice researchers described how, a single-atom-thick sheet of graphene in pencil lead, can be made from just about any carbon source, including food, insects and waste.

The cookie gambit started on a dare when Tour mentioned that his lab had produced graphene from table sugar, the journal Nano reports.

“I said we could grow it from any carbon source — for example, a Girl Scout cookie (cookies made by girl scouts), because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time,” Tour recalled. “So one of the people in the room said, ‘Yes, please do it . . . . Let’s see that happen.’”

Members of Girl Scouts of America Troop 25080 came to Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process, according to a Rice statement.

Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, who led the study, and Zhengzong Sun calculated that at the then-commercial rate for pristine graphene — $250 for a two-inch square — a box of traditional Girl Scout shortbread cookies could turn a $15 billion profit.

“That’s a lot of cash!” said an amazed Sydney Shanahan, a member of the troop.

A sheet of graphene made from one box of shortbread cookies would cover nearly 30 football fields, Sun said.

The experiment was a whimsical way to make a serious point: that graphene can be drawn from many sources.

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