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SHEETS OF GRAPHENE, a super-strength material, can be zapped from just about any carbon-containing waste. All that’s required is electricity generating immense heat. Here are tidbits on the material, the process, and, not incidentally, the temperature scale used in its description.
Robert Service writes in Science, January 31, 2020, “Electricity Turns Garbage into Graphene.” The potential in this achievement is in broadening the use of graphene, limited these days to high-end plastics and electronics.
Nanolayers of Carbon. Graphene is composed of sheets of carbon atoms, some only a single layer thick. As Robert Service notes, graphene “is stronger than steel, conducts electricity and heat better than copper, and can serve as an impermeable barrier.”
First fabricated in 2004, graphene sheets have been expensive and difficult to make, especially on a commercial scale. Today’s graphene is produced through vapor deposition, too costly a technique for high-volume applications.
Flash-Produced Graphene. In 2014, Rice University chemist James Tour produced bits of graphene by laser-zapping carbon black (a tire material). Later, Luong Xuan Duy, one of Tour’s graduate students, used electric heating in lieu of the more complex laser to accomplish a similar flash production of graphene at a temperature of 3000 kelvins.
Kelvins, Degrees Celsius, and Degrees Fahrenheit. As described by uoregon.edu, “There are three temperature scales in use today, Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin.”
Fahrenheit, devised by 18th-century German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, uses 32 to designate the freezing temperature of water, 212 as water’s boiling point, with the interval between divided into 180 degrees.
The Celsius scale, invented in 1742 by Swedish astronomer Andres Celsius, is also known as the centigrade scale. As the latter suggests, it has 100 degrees between water’s freezing point, 0 degrees C, and boiling point, 100 degrees C.
Conversion formulae for the two are F = 9/5C + 32 and C = 5/9(F – 32). As noted in “See You and Raise You 40”, -40 degrees is the same in either Fahrenheit or Celsius.
Here’s a memory aid: 68 and 86 degrees F are, respectively, 20 and 30 degrees C.
Kelvin is a thermodynamic interpretation of temperature based on the Celsius scale. It’s named for British physicist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, 1824–1907. Zero kelvin, the theoretical cessation of molecular action, is -273.15 degrees C; 273.15 kelvins is 0 degrees C, 32 degrees F.
Note, the word “degrees” is omitted with the kelvin unit; unlike the Baron Kelvin, it does without an upper case; and, for example, 3000 kelvins is appropriate terminology.
Flash Graphene’s Super Properties. Adding graphene just 0.05 percent by weight improves the compressive strength of concrete by 25 percent. Added to polydimethylsiloxane, a common plastic, it boosts strength by 250 percent. Other potential applications are in improving the durability of asphalt and paint.
What’s more, Science writer Service notes, “Virtually any organic matter, including coffee grounds, food scraps, old tires, and plastic bottles, can be vaporized to make the material.”
As researcher Duy said, “We’re turning garbage into graphene.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020