Australian researchers have made graphene from eucalyptus trees.

Graphene is the thinnest and strongest known material. It is flexible, transparent and conducts heat and electricity 10 times better than copper, making it ideal for anything from flexible nanoelectronics to better fuel cells.

A new approach by researchers from RMIT University uses Eucalyptus bark extract to make the next-gen material in a cheaper and more sustainable way than before.

The experts estimate the new method could reduce the cost of graphene production from US$100 per gram to just US$0.5 per gram.

“Eucalyptus bark extract has never been used to synthesise graphene sheets before and we are thrilled to find that it not only works, it’s in fact a superior method, both in terms of safety and overall cost,” said RMIT lead researcher Professor Suresh Bhargava.

The ‘green’ chemistry also avoids the use of toxic reagents, potentially opening the door to the application of graphene not only for electronic devices but also biocompatible materials.

When tested in the application of a supercapacitor, the ‘green’ graphene produced using this method matched the quality and performance characteristics of traditionally-produced graphene without the toxic reagents.

Dr Bhargava said the abundance of eucalyptus trees in Australia made it a cheap and accessible resource for producing graphene locally.

“Graphene is a remarkable material with great potential in many applications due to its chemical and physical properties and there’s a growing demand for economical and environmentally friendly large-scale production,” he said.

The full study is accessible here.