Drawing Graphene for Mass Production
As with many materials, figuring out how to produce graphene is proving to be a challenge. The atom-thick sheet of carbon has been proving very difficult to mass produce for some time, but researchers are continually making advances. Published in the American Institute of Physics Applied Physics Letters journal is an article on producing graphene in specific shapes with a method that should be applicable to mass production.
Previous research has found that silicon carbide could be heated to roughly 1300 ºC to vaporize the silicon and leave graphene behind. What the new research has done is found a way to selectively vaporize the silicon, so the graphene could be produced in specific patterns. This was accomplished by implanting addition silicon atoms or gold atoms into the silicon carbide. These imperfections cause the silicon to vaporize at a lower temperature, but only where the imperfections are located. The pure silicon carbide is unaffected at the lower temperature.
More work will have to be done to refine the process, but this is still a major improvement over the old system involving silicon carbide. This required etching away at the graphene to create specific patterns, but the process could damage the graphene by introducing impurities. These impurities could cripple the conductivity of graphene, which is what makes it so interesting to researchers to begin with.