Bryan Colwell

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Graphene Processing: When Particle Size Reduction Isn’t Enough

Posted by Bryan Colwell on Aug 1, 2022 9:30:00 AM

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Graphene is a form of carbon. It was discovered in the early 2000s and has the potential to literally change the world. But only if it is processed correctly. Keep reading to learn why high pressure homogenizers are the key to improving graphene processing and, thus, crucial to the dawn of an exciting new world of manufacturing possibilities.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a single, two-dimensional slice of graphite, a form of carbon. (You might remember that graphite is commonly used in pencil lead.) Scientists suspected graphene existed, but it wasn’t until 2004 that two researchers were actually able to isolate it and spur extensive study into its possible uses. And there are many uses because even though graphene is one million times thinner than a human hair, it is 200 times stronger than steel. It is also lightweight, transparent, flexible, highly conductive, and nearly impermeable, making it useful for many different types of applications. What’s especially unique about graphene is the fact that it is only one atom thick, extending in width and length but having no discernible height! Scientists are looking into using graphene in wearable and portable electronics; renewable energy sources; water filters; insulation; sporting goods; semiconductors; industrial lubricants and coatings; adhesives; biomedicine; and more!

How is Graphene Processed?

Using graphene for any application depends on isolating it from graphite. If you consider graphite a stack of towels, then each towel is a layer of graphene and the scientist must separate this stack to isolate a single layer of graphene. He or she must peel one towel off the stack in order to “make” graphene. However, unlike a stack of towels, which has a uniform width and length and a known number of individual components, graphite is irregularly shaped with an unknown number of layers to be revealed. In this case, our scientist must carefully separate each graphene layer from the graphite (or separate each towel from the stack) while keeping its total length intact, never knowing exactly when to stop. It’s not an easy task despite the fact that the first graphene processing tool to be used was simple scotch tape; scientists used tape to peel off layers of graphene from a chunk of graphite and then apply it to a substrate material. When the tape was removed from the substrate, an atom-thick layer of carbon was left behind— graphene! While this method works, separating and leaving behind separate layers of graphene over and over again, it’s neither cost-effective nor scalable for large volume production. Other options, including chemical exfoliation, are like-wise insufficient since they utilize complex processes that risk exposure of and/or contamination by toxic materials and/or take a lot of time and produce poor concentration and low yield. The best graphene processing equipment overcomes the electric forces that hold the layers of graphene together. It exfoliates and reduces the layer of graphene sheets and increases viscosity. A high pressure homogenizer is the best graphene processing tool.

Why BEEI High Pressure Homogenizers Improve Graphene Processing

High pressure homogenizers use pressure to reduce a substance to its smallest individual particles. You might believe that this alone makes them best-suited to shearing off graphene sheets from a larger graphite sample. Graphene processing, however, is a lot more than particle reduction. Reliable graphene processing also renders precise layer counts and enhances the stability of graphene-based nano-fluids, and only BEE International high pressure homogenizers have the patented emulsifying technology (EC) capable of delivering these things. Indeed, the proprietary combination of forces we use in our EC technology ensures not just the smallest particle reduction of any sample, but scalability and high yield, as well. Furthermore, the design of our flexible modular system is easy to use, clean, maintain and service, utilizing a multipass automation system and allowing custom processing for any type of application so that results are always scalable and the integrity of all graphene layers is always preserved. With our equipment, flake graphite can be easily transformed into useable graphene in less time and with less money, enabling you and/or your customers to start using this versatile material and usher in a brave new world of possibilities. Please contact our team at BEE International to learn more about using our high pressure homogenizers for graphene processing.