Graphene extracted from eucalyptus trees

An international collaboration between researchers from RMIT University and the National Institute of Technology, Warangal (India) has led to the development of a new way to extract graphene.

The method derives graphene from eucalyptus bark and is cheaper and more sustainable than current synthesis methods, according to a statement from RMIT.

While the current cost of production stands at US$100 ($142.95) per gram of graphene, this new method could potentially reduce the cost to US$0.5 per gram. With such a lowered cost, new applications and industry uses could be developed, without significant investment in research and development.

“Eucalyptus bark extract has never been used to synthesise graphene sheets before and we are thrilled to find that it not only works, it’s in fact a superior method, both in terms of safety and overall cost,” said lead researcher Suresh Bhargava.

Currently, graphene is renowned for its conductive abilities, with the material able to conduct of heat and electricity 10 times better than copper. While being flexible and transparent, graphene is the thinnest and strongest material known to humans.

The new extractive method opens up the use of graphene for applications as diverse as flexible electronics, water filters and bio-sensors.

An additional benefit of the eucalyptus extraction method is the lack of its reliance on toxic reagents, making it an example of “green” chemistry, according to professor Vishnu Shanker from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal.

The graphene extracted from eucalyptus was tested in the application of a super-capacitor and matched the quality and performance characteristics of graphene extracted in other methods, which rely on harmful reducing agents.

With eucalyptus trees abundant in Australia, as well as around the world, while also being one of the ten quickest trees to grow, graphene could be created with ease.

“Graphene is a remarkable material with great potential in many applications due to its chemical and physical properties and there’s a growing demand for economical and environmentally friendly large-scale production,” said Bhargava.