Graphene, the one-atom-thick carbon sheet material that could revolution everything from energy storage to computer chips, can now be made much more easily - at least, that's what scientists from Northern Illinois University (NIU) are telling us. While previous production methods have included things like repeatedly splitting graphite crystals with tape, heating silicon carbide to high temperatures, and various other approaches, the latest process simply involves burning pure magnesium in dry ice.

The graphene created consists of several layers - not just one - although it is still less than ten atoms thick.

"It is scientifically proven that burning magnesium metal in carbon dioxide produces carbon, but the formation of this carbon with few-layer graphene as the major product has neither been identified nor proven as such until our current report," said Narayan Hosmane, an NIU professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and leader of the project. "The synthetic process can be used to potentially produce few-layer graphene in large quantities. Up until now, graphene has been synthesized by various methods utilizing hazardous chemicals and tedious techniques. This new method is simple, green and cost-effective."

Hosmane's team had set out to produce single-wall carbon nanotubes, and inadvertently discovered the graphene-production method in the process.

The research was recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Last November, researchers from Rice University announced another promising graphene production method, that utilizes simple table sugar.