When it comes to next-gen super materials, graphene is incredible stuff – it can be six times lighter than steel, two times harder, and 10 times stronger in terms of tensile strength – and now researchers at Rice University have figured out a way to literally bake it from a box of Girl Scout cookies. A group of graduate students led by chemist James Tour recently teamed up with a Houston Girl Scout troop 25080 to perform the feat using a single box of Trefoil cookies — which could potentially yield $15 billion dollars worth of graphene.
The Rice University experiment was designed to illustrate that graphene can be produced from practically any material that contains carbon — including grass, polystyrene plastic, solid waste, and even ordinary table sugar, as the team proved last year. According to the researchers, a single sheet of graphene made from a box of shortbread cookies would be large enough to cover 30 football fields.
To transform the shortbread cookies into graphene the team placed them upon a piece of copper foil and baked them at over 1,900 degrees in an argon and hydrogen gas-fueled oven. As the cookies disintegrated, a thin layer of graphene formed on one side of the foil, while other residues were filtered out to the other side.
Graphene exhibits remarkable material properties – in addition to its extraordinary tensile strength and light weight, it is also exceptionally conductive. These characteristics make it a sought-after material for applications ranging from solar panels and ultracapacitors to next-gen LED lights and storage systems for fuel cell cars. The only problem is the exorbitant price it fetches – $250 per two-inch square – and the specialized processes and machinery required to produce it. Tour expects the cost to drop significantly as systems are developed to manufacture it in bulk.