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.

graphene, girl scout cookies, Houston girl scouts, Rice University, green design, sustainable design, green materials, building materials, james tour

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.

+ Rice University