This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project aims to develop a highly-efficient and cost-effective plasma-based method for graphene mass production. The approach is to utilize unique properties of magnetically controlled arc discharge to couple the plasma production of carbon species and the synthesis of graphene.

The broader/commercial impact of this project will be the potential to enable the mass production of graphene for energy, electronics, aerospace, mechanical, civil, and biomedical applications. Since it was first created in the lab, graphene has been considered as a wonder material. Its distinctive electronic properties make it a leading candidate to replace silicon in applications ranging from high-speed computer chips to biochemical sensors. However, the mass production of high-yield and low-cost graphene is very challenging. This project is expected to provide a method for producing graphene in a scalable and cost-effective manner, which would make it easier for the wide adoption of graphene in the future.

Project Report

Graphene is a one-atom-thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. Variety of outstanding graphene properties leads to its potential application in carbon-based flexible and stretchable electronics, high-frequency transistors and magneto-electronic devices. However, before graphene material can be applied to commercial applications, it is necessary to find lower cost methods of mass production of high quality graphene platelets. Recently, our company Applied Plasma Science, LLC presented a new method of graphene synthesis in magnetically controlled plasma process. The central objective of this project was to demonstrate feasibility of plasma-based approach for mass production of high quality graphene platelets at low cost. Our research activities can be divided into two closely related thrusts. First direction of our work was focused on clarification of role of magnetic field in the process of graphene synthesis. To this end Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) transferred the technology of magnetic control of the synthesis process to Applied Plasma Science (APS) and both groups conducted collaborative research effort. Based on the findings obtained as a result of the technology transfer, APS clarified the role of magnetic field in the graphene synthesis and identified parameters critical for scaling up the graphene production. Second direction of our work was to optimize these critical synthesis parameters, namely substrate temperature, synthesis time, operating pressure, and geometry of discharge electrodes. In this part of the project APS designed various systems and devices required for the graphene synthesis, conducted numerous graphene synthesis experiments and performed extensive characterization of the experimental samples. The main accomplishment of the project is demonstration of the very high efficiency of the plasma-based graphene synthesis, which proves the feasibility of our approach for mass production of graphene. Such efficiency of the method will allow achieving the graphene production rates at the level of several tons per year on single plasma apparatus, while current annual worldwide graphene production is several tens of tons.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Grace Jinliu Wang
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Applied Plasma Science LLC
Oak Park
United States
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