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Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham have designed a novel technique for large-scale production of graphene with real-time monitoring. The study provides a viable route for controllable and customizable mass-production which could be adopted for other 2D materials.

Graphene is currently produced through a variety of methods, roughly divided into bottom-up and top-down approaches. Bottom-up graphene production builds layers atom-by-atom, making a high-quality product but with a drastically time-consuming process. Top-down graphene production is typically much faster and has the potential for large-scale production, but the quality is usually lower. Top-down processes begin with graphite which is split into different layers using a technique known as exfoliation. In this study, the team set out to produce a scalable method for top-down production which would result in a consistently high-quality graphene product.

The researchers used a combination of fluid dynamics, numerical simulations, and material characterizations to examine two different exfoliation approaches.\

Both methods involved pumping liquids containing graphite particles through intense mixing environments, either over a rapidly rotating disc, or through a thin gap between two counter-rotating cylinders.

From this, the team were able to determine that factors such as the intensity of the mixing environment and the amount of time graphite particles spent within this environment were dominant in governing nanosheet characteristics and concentration.

The findings of this study offer a new technique for mass producing high-quality graphene that allows for real-time monitoring.

This ‘on-the-fly’ method will enable manufacturers to control the number of atomic layers in the 2D nanomaterials produced, allowing them to monitor the quality and production rates in real time.

Lead author Dr. Jason Stafford, School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, said: "The research outcomes bring us a step closer to realizing widespread adoption of this promising class of nanomaterials in our future technologies.

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