Carbon project initiative, the extraction of graphene from coal
Some researchers at the University of Wyoming are studying the use of "growing" graphene and other carbon materials. The main aspect of the study, led by Patrick Johnson, is to find other uses of Wyoming's major minerals.
"The characteristics of all these special carbon materials are that they have special properties for some applications," Johnson said. Therefore, graphene has high conductivity, high thermal conductivity, and some conductivity is the best of all materials.
The Carbon Engineering Initiative supports all kinds of cross projects across the campus, aiming to transform the extraction economy based in Wyoming into an economic mode that focuses on developing and manufacturing advanced materials. "We are working hard to get non energy and non fuel products from coal," said Richard Horner, deputy director of the new energy and Technology School of University of Wyoming. Therefore, the focus of our research is to open up a new market for Wyoming coal. "
The initiative also investigated carbon materials from other sources except coal. Its potential application value is to provide the possibility for the combination of these materials and coal based materials.
The main research of Johnson is concentrated in the field of graphene, because it has extraordinary performance and has the potential to innovate the various industries. Graphene was first isolated and characterized in 2004. It is the strongest test material in the world, and is also highly conductive material. "Graphene research is the most intense and competitive research field in the world," says Michael Seas, a master of chemical engineering, who works with Johnson.
"Since 2004, about ten thousand publications have cited articles two or three years ago," he said. The research of graphene is very popular. You can look at almost all universities in the United States, and there will be one or two researchers studying graphene.
The carbon project initiative sees coal as not only a flammable source of fuel. Seas explains that coal has three main components: fixed carbon, volatiles and inorganic ashes.
"Generally, when you burn coal, what you're burning is fixed carbon and volatile substances," he said. We are trying to extract the volatile components of coal to become a thermosetting plastic that has economic benefits, not to burn them out. What we left behind is the fixed carbon part and this inorganic ash.
Johnson and Seas are studying methods or routes to develop graphene from the remaining parts. Seas said: "our route is actually the temperature of graphitization, remaining so, now we can safely remove ash, ash collection, and then left the graphite materials, so you can use these different routes to synthesis of graphene oxide, graphite material." Graphene and more carbon materials from coal, such as diamond nanotubes, UW researchers are exploring their possible applications through advanced technology.
"Although researchers in other places have been developing carbon based electronic products, they usually use cleaner and more expensive raw materials than coal," Bill Rice, assistant professor of carbon research and Johnson Seas, said. The project in Rice Spectroscopy laboratory has solved the potential application value of carbon materials for coal growing, such as making cheaper Touchscreens and building safer aircraft wings.
Rice said: "we can not guarantee that these applications will lead to economic diversification, but when there are several projects at the same time, the coal preparation technology to strengthen the national economy some day in the future. Rice said, "they put in some of the risks and some of the things that involve the work. So, the $2 million that they have invested is able to do a lot of research. "
The carbon project initiative requires chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemists and physicists to collaborate on the development of coal technology routes. "I know electronics and optics," Rice said. But the key is to need people to work together to turn coal into a good carbon source. " Johnson and Seas are experimenting with different routes in the future to convert cheap and rich raw coal from Wyoming to more valuable and versatile graphene.
Most of the graphene used in the present study comes from ore graphite. Graphene is derived from graphite, and one gram of graphene costs more than 100 dollars. Johnson said: "our research goal is to get graphene from coal raw materials. Coal is cheap and easy to get, and it can also extract other components." The researchers intend to apply for a patent for the development of graphene, even if these methods are applied to non coal materials, which may also be useful to the country's economy.
Seas said, "the idea is that if we develop technology here, the state will get the technology and patent, because University of Wyoming will get the patent. If this technology is used in the industry, you will get the royalties. But the main focus of our attention is whether we can start from coal and expand it to other systems. "