Chinese scientists have become the first to manufacture graphene from corn, they announced at a press conference held at Heilongjiang University, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, on Friday.
Graphene is a rare type of carbon that has found practical applications in the semiconductor, electronics and battery industries. The super-light material is 200 times stronger than steel, an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and nearly transparent.
This breakthrough means that scientists will now be able to produce graphene more cheaply, greatly expanding the supply of the material which has until now remained relatively small.
Previously, the main source of graphene was graphite, another carbon variant that is often used in pencils. Fu Honggang, deputy dean at the School of Chemistry and Materials Sciences of Heilongjiang University began research into biological sources of graphene to chip away the expense and enormous pollution of traditional production methods.
The estimated output value of graphene produced from corn exceeds 300 million yuan ($42.9 million), news portal Science and Technology Daily reported on Tuesday.
The university cooperated on this research with the Shengquan Group, a Jinan-based chemicals firm, and set up the word's first manufacturing line dedicated to producing graphene from biological sources in 2014. It produced 20 tons of graphene from corn fibers in its first year and later expanded its annual output to 100 tons in 2016.
This breakthrough will help Heilongjiang put its agricultural waste to good use, said Yu Lihe, deputy director of Heilongjiang's Science and Technology Department.