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The material graphene has a vast number of potential applications — but a survey of commercially available graphene samples reveals that research could be undermined by the poor quality of the available material.
Graphite is composed of layers of carbon atoms just a single atom in thickness, known as graphene sheets, to which it owes many of its remarkable properties. When the thickness of graphite flakes is reduced to just a few graphene layers, some of the material’s technologically most important characteristics are greatly enhanced — such as the total surface area per gram, and the mechanical flexibility of the individual flakes. In other words, graphene is more than just thin graphite. Unfortunately, it seems that many graphene producers either do not know or do not care about this. Writing in Advanced Materials, Kauling et al.1 report a systematic study of graphene from 60 producers, and find that many highly priced graphene products consist mostly of graphite powder.