CANBERRA, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- An Australian breakthrough using soybeans could result in graphene - the world's strongest tested material - becoming more "commercially viable," scientists said on Tuesday.
Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) hailed the breakthrough, in which soybean oil is transformed into graphene using new technology, as one which could lower the cost of producing the material while increasing the "uptake in new applications."
Graphene is a super strong and highly conductive carbon material just one atom thick, meaning it is suitable for use in fields such as miniature electronics.
CSIRO scientist Dr Zhao Jun Han said the new technology, called GraphAir, negates the need to create graphene in a "highly-controlled environment," instead using "ambient air with a natural precursor," making its production faster and simpler.
"This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly," Han said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications."
Co-researcher Dr Dong Han Seo said the new method, using soybean oil "results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods."
According to the CSIRO, soybean oil breaks down into carbon building units - essential to the production of synthetic graphene - when exposed to heat.
Graphene can be used in a range of potential applications, including in water filtration and purification, the renewable energy sector, and in medicine. The CSIRO said graphene "has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties."