Next time you're inhaling an entire box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies, just think of the potential you're wasting: a full $15 billion worth of graphene. At least, that's the estimate given by a team of Rice University researchers working on a dare.
Published as part of a paper recently published by ACS Nano, the Rice lab's work on Girl Scout Cookies began when lab chemist James Tour mentioned at a meeting that his team had turned table sugar to graphene--a one-atom-thick layer of carbon possessing remarkable properties of strength and conductivity. He claimed that he and his grad students could grow graphene from any carbon source, and it just so happened there were Girl Scout Cookies being passed around the meeting.
And so a challenge was born. The lab invited Girl Scout Troop 25080 to join them in Rice's nano lab to see exactly how cookies become a prized version of carbon. In their demo, they made graphene from a range of materials--grass, chocolate, a cockroach leg, even dog excrement (special thanks to Sid Vicious the mini dachshund) to show that high-quality graphene is basically waiting to be extracted from all kinds of everyday materials.
To make graphene, the Rice team uses a copper foil and a super-hot argon and hydrogen gas oven burning at more than 1,900 degrees. In this process, the object it placed on one side of the foil and, under high heat, begins to decompose. A thin sheet of graphene forms on the other side of the foil, while the residues and impurities remain on the other side.
Two of the grad students in Tour's lab did some math given the current commercial price for quality graphene--about $250 per two-inch square--and figured that a box of shortbread cookies could generate a roughly $15 billion profit if converted to graphene.
Of course, that has everything to do with scale, supply, and demand. Right now, graphene is difficult and expensive to produce in large quantities. A box of shortbread could yield a sheet of graphene that would cover three football fields if the means of production were there. And of course if supply were that inexpensive the price would drop substantially.
In other words, the team was trying to demonstrate that--given better manufacturing means of producing graphene in bulk--sources of graphene are all around us, not that you should buy Thin Mints as long-term investment. Although in this economy you might actually come out ahead.
all the best science is done on a dare.
sounds like a perfect opportunity for waste management
That is an interesting demonstration of the process. I've never seen any sort of flowchart for the production of graphene (not that I've looked all that hard, either).
I have no doubt that if the claims of what graphene can do pan out, we are on the brink of a major drop in the price of producing it. If we had sufficient market motivation, I'm sure would could drop the price exponentially, just as happened with aluminum (used to be more costly than gold) and several other products (I think that discrete silicon transistors fall in that category, too, never mind integrated Si transistors).
You know, I hadn't thought of that, but you're right. If literally any carbon-based substance can be used to produce graphene using this process, then it should theoretically be possible to turn the organic portion of garbage dumps into a valuable super-material. That would outstanding. Here's hoping this actually works on a large scale as well as it does on a small one, in a lab.
I can't get the math to add up to $15 billion given the info in this article. Anybody else try that out and get something different?
In a related news story the Obama Administration has deemed Girl Scout cookies a 'strategic commodity' due to the inherent graphene component. Private US Industries (legislation obviously aimed at the Girl Scouts) are no longer allowed to sell or trade Girl Scout cookies without US Government approval.
The Girl Scouts of America have been served notice of an impending 'Winfall Tax' and the abrogation of their tax exempt status.
LOL@ Cornywebb... yeah that about sums it up.
Don't take life to seriously! You'll never get out of it alive.
Indeed, someone put their decimal in the wrong place, it's supposed to be 1.5 billion.
3 football fields would be 1080 x 160 feet, or 12,960 x 1,920 inches. That's 24,883,200 square inches. Divide by 4 ( A 2 inch square, having 2 inches per side, is 4 square inches. ) and you get 6,220,800. Times the value of $250 and you get: $1,555,200,000 or 1.5552 billion dollars.
Hopefully it wasn't the original paper with such a simple typo, but rather somewhere else down the line.
in other related news, republicans have decided that girl scout cookies are now socialist and must be done away with. also that endless wars are ok, but lets cut grandma's social security check, while giving tax breaks to the "job creators"
what they dont tell is that the only jobs they create are overseas
A.) its called a joke...why so serious?
B.) I would take that jab as jab at politics in general.
c.) Obama and Democrats have had control of both house and White house for 2 yrs, and the White House and the senate for 1 1/2 yrs.... where are the jobs? curious......
@zechio, yup was about to post my working too, get the same figure as you do! It's maths, PopSci - it's not that hard! ;-)
@Cornywebb, I felt your little story should have ended. ".... and that’s the way the cookie crumbles."
Joe and Zechio,
A big mea culpa on that one; I wrote the press release and despite vetting by everybody, I still got the number wrong: The actual coverage should be almost 30 football fields, not 3. So the $15 billion figure stands. A video we shot of the girls in the lab (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loLvULmacw4) has the correct figures.
so by extension one human body could produce enough graphene to eliminate the deficit? Graphene sheets is people!
ExistentialThreat, were you watching the movie "Soylent
Green" on Netflix last night?
There's always time to do it better NOW.
I dunno, I'd rather have the cookies
Yeah I'd rather have the cookies too.
I wonder how flammable it is? How susceptible to extreme cold. Would epoxy stick to it without changing it? What about other chemicals? Does it have to be on a substrate to be used efficiently? Could it be turned into a usable wire?
Just wait until Mayor Bloomberg hears about this....