Researchers potentially solve e-waste problems by turning wood into graphene

While wood is not generally renowned for its electrical superconductor qualities, that could all be about to change if Rice University has anything to do with it. Research being carried out by scientists at the Texan university has resulted in the successful conversion of pine into an electrical conductor, by transforming its surface into graphene.

As part of the research, which has been published in the academic journal Advanced Materials, the team used an industrial laser to blacken a thin film pattern onto a block of pine. This process has traditionally been known as laser-induced graphene (LIG), and creates flexible, patterned sheets of multilayer graphene, without the need for hot furnaces and controlled environments. 

While LIG has previously been applied to sheets of plastic polyimide, this project marks the first time it has been applied to wood, and thus has become the inaugural instance of pine laser-induced graphene (P-LIG).

This significant feat was achieved using an inert argon or hydrogen atmosphere, with the lack of oxygen preventing the heat from the laser burning the pine, and instead transforming its surface into graphene foam.

The advantage of using wood to create graphene rather than polyimide is that wood is a renewable material. While graphene has a vast array of potential uses, including highlighting structural defects in buildings, creating new types of speakers and even detecting cancer, Rice University researchers are focused specifically on the conductive properties of the pine laser-induced graphene to create super capacitors for energy storage.

And with vast amounts of electronic waste being produced globally every year, the concept of biodegradable, eco-friendly wooden electronics is clearly advantageous.

Source: Digital Trends