Transforming Waste into Valuable Graphene

Teresa Madaleno

Banana peels make for great compost for gardens and the inside of the peel contains potassium that can help clean metal objects but that’s not all – chemists at Rice University lab in Texas report they have turned banana peel into valuable graphene.

What is graphene?

Graphene is a thin layer of graphite, which is an element of carbon that possesses the same atoms as carbon but arranged in a different way. Its honeycomb arrangement allows for the best conductivity of any material. Electricity flows through it very quickly.

Transforming Banana Waste

The process developed in the Rice University lab can take bulk amounts of waste, like banana peels and even plastics, then transform it into graphene flakes. Chemist, James Tour has indicated that the system is not only quick, it’s cheap. It’s called the “Flash Graphene Technique.” Flash graphene can be made in milliseconds according to Nature. You simply have to heat the carbon containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin, which works out to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

So what does this mean for the planet? Experts are exploring various possibilities; however, there are already some technologies in the works that use graphene, including super-fast charging batteries, efficient biosensor devices, supercapacitors, lighter aircraft, and bionic devices.

In a recent news release posted on the Rice University website chemists suggest that graphene can help reduce the environmental impact of concrete production. Emissions from concrete production is a big concern in the construction industry – something that chemists around the world have been working to try to address for some time now.

While the banana peel and other food scraps are seen by most of us as just waste, scientists see it as a valuable resource, and in the process of their work we encourage you to respect your own waste by recycling, reusing, and buying more sustainable products.