August 5, 2011

Girl Scout Cookies Turned Into Graphene

Rice University researchers recently proved how a box of girl scout cookies could be worth $15 billion.

The researchers invited a troop of Houston Girl Scouts over to the lab to show how scientists can make graphene out of just about anything with carbon.

The scientists described in the journal ACS Nano how graphene can be made from just about any carbon source, including food, insects and waste.

The venture started when Rice University chemist James Tour was dared during a meeting at his lab to produce graphene from table sugar.

"I said we could grow it from any carbon source -- for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time," Tour said in a press release. "So one of the people in the room said, 'Yes, please do it. ... Let's see that happen.'"

The Girl Scouts came to Rice's Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process.

Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, lead author of the paper, and Zhengzong Sun calculated the commercial rate for pristine graphene.  They found that $250 for a two-inch square of graphene at that time would turn a traditional box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies into a $15 billion profit.

Sun said a sheet of graphene made from one box of shortbread cookies could cover nearly 30 football fields.

The experiment was done to show that graphene can be drawn from many sources.  The material is known for its toughness and conductivity since its discovery by Nobel Prize-winning scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004.

The researchers also tested a range of materials including chocolate, grass, polystyrene plastic, insects and even dog feces.

The researchers were able to make high-quality graphene during every case through carbon deposition on copper foil.

The graphene forms on the opposite side of the foil as solid carbon sources decompose.  The team said this happens in about 15 minutes in a furnace flowing with argon and hydrogen gas, turned up to 1,922 degrees Fahrenheit.

The material may one day replace indium tin oxide as a basic element in flat-panel and touch-screen displays, solar cells and LED lighting.


Image 2: Rice University researchers and members of Girl Scouts of America Troop 25080 confirm the conductivity of graphene made from shortbread Girl Scout Cookies. (Credit: Rice University)


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