It's hard to find an article about graphene that doesn't include the words "wonder material" somewhere within it. Less wondrous, unfortunately, is the expensive and time consuming chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process used to produce it industrially. Now researchers from the University of Exeter claim to have discovered a new low-cost technique to produce high quality graphene that could see the wonder material start to realize its potential.

The new system is based on technology already used in the manufacture of semiconductors, providing the potential to mass produce graphene using existing facilities instead of sinking money into completely new plants. It involves growing graphene in an industrial resistive-heating cold wall CVD system developed by UK-based company, Moorfield Nanotechnology. The researchers say this so-called nanoCVD system can grow graphene 100 times faster than conventional CVD systems, cuts costs by 99 percent, and produces graphene boasting enhanced electronic qualities.

The Exeter researchers, led by Professor Monica Craciun, have used this new technique to create a graphene-based touch sensor that is flexible and transparent. In addition to more flexible electronic devices, the researchers believe such sensors will also enable truly flexible electronic skin for use in robots.

"Emerging flexible and wearable technologies such as healthcare electronics and energy-harvesting devices could be transformed by the unique properties of graphene," says Dr Thomas Moorfield, a former PhD student at Exeter who is now working at Moorfield. "The extremely cost efficient procedure that we have developed for preparing graphene is of vital importance for the quick industrial exploitation of graphene."

The team's research findings appear in the journal Advanced Materials.

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