I am currently working on a project for 3DPI that involves a historical piece on the 3D printing sector and this prompted me to go over some old interview notes with Adrian Bowyer, the original founder of RepRap, from a year or so back. This in turn induced me to check in and see what the guys are up to at RepRapPro.
I was startled but absolutely delighted to find the latest blog post from last week pointing to ideas they are formulating concerning research into RepRaps printing Graphene — that material of materials!
I have speculated about the 3D printing of nano materials for a while now, mostly in my head, but occasionally out loud. And Adrian was actually one of the people I voiced my thoughts to. Evidence for this can be found in the blog post I wrote after meeting him early last year.
Anyway, back to the main point, the guys at RepRapPro reference a compelling paper by El Cady et al, which considers the use of graphene for making capacitors. El Cady and his team were able to coat DVD-sized discs with a colloid of graphene oxide (GO) and subsequently use a LightScribe DVD writer to zap the GO with the writer’s 780nm infrared laser thus converting the GO to conducting graphene.
It also turns out that it is possible to produce GO from a freely available recipe from Chemistry of Materials or, alternatively, buy it direct online. The RepRapPro team further postulate that, “it should be straightforward to form a sol/colloid of it using sonication (possibly in an ultrasonic cleaner). It could then be deposited on conventionally reprapped 3D prints from a specially designed head (for example like this single-drop inkjet) then zapped with an IR laser on the head to convert the GO to graphene. The result would not just be another route to printable conductors – you can make all sorts of active electronic devices, including transistors …”
But for anyone that needs it spelt out, this is early research, albeit ongoing.