Graphene is expected to replace 13 rare metals?

HC Plastics News: Although rare metals exist in various daily necessities around us, the extraction of rare metal elements is complicated, difficult to recycle and very rare, so it is easy to evolve into a “conflict type ore”, causing conflicts between countries and press. The latest research from Chalmers University of Technology shows that at the technical level, carbon nanomaterials can be used to replace many metal materials, such as graphene.

Rare metals can be found in computers, cell phones, almost all electronic devices, and many plastic products around us. Society is highly dependent on rare metals, but this dependence has many drawbacks.

Rare metals such as tin, silver, tungsten and indium are rare and difficult to extract due to the low feasibility of extraction, which makes rare metals highly attractive. In addition, these rare metals have also caused many conflicts. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rare metals have become a source of funding for armed conflict.

In addition, since devices such as electronic products have a rare metal content which is usually small, it is difficult to recycle.

Researchers Rickard Arvidsson and Björn Sandén of the Chalmers University of Technology Environmental Systems Analysis Center have found a solution to replace rare metals with carbon nanomaterials. The most famous of these materials is graphene because it has good electrical conductivity like rare metals.

“The development of technology now allows us to make better use of carbon,” Sandén said. “There are many new carbon nanomaterials that have metal-like properties. This is a very promising area. Start investing in rare metals from now on. Recycling and replacement are also very important."

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology studied the main applications of 14 different metals and looked at the possibilities of carbon nanomaterials as a substitute by consulting patents and scientific literature. The results of this study provide a very important reference for research and technological development in this field.

According to an overview by Arvidsson and Sandén, the transition from the use of rare metals to the use of carbon nanomaterials is underway.

“In the most common applications of carbon nanomaterials, carbon nanomaterials can replace 13 of the 14 metals. Technology development is at different stages, and different metals have different applications. For example, indium and gallium, the results show that These two metals are very promising in some cases," Arvidsson said.

“This brings us hope,” Sandén said. “In the debate on resource constraints, circular economy and social material processing, people have been paying attention to recycling and reuse. The alternative is happening quietly, but people are paying attention to it. Not high, as resource issues become more urgent, we now have more tools available."

The findings were recently published in the journal Cleaner Production. Arvidsson and Sandén emphasize that reducing the use of rare metals has this great benefit, and they hope to do more research and development in this area.

“Imagine if you can replace rare metals with carbon,” says Sandén. “The carbon extracted from biomass will create a new natural circulation.”

“Because carbon is a common and readily available raw material, it is also likely to reduce these conflicts and geopolitical issues caused by rare metals,” Arvidsson said.

At the same time, they pointed out that if other materials were used to replace rare metals, more research is still needed to solve new problems that may arise in the future.

“Carbon nanomaterials are only a relatively new discovery so far. From a life cycle perspective, the knowledge gained so far is limited to the extent of environmental impact of these materials, but it seems that the potential impact on the environment is small.” Arvidsson said.

The carbon nanomaterials are composed entirely or mostly of carbon and have good electrical conductivity. Several rare metals have similar properties, such as cables, thin screens, flame retardants, corrosion resistant containers, and rare metals in capacitors.

Rickard Arvidsson and Björn Sandén at Chalmers University of Technology investigated whether nanocarbon materials such as graphene, fullerenes, and carbon nanotubes can replace 14 rare metals in their main applications. They have discovered potential technological solutions that use carbon nanomaterials instead of metals. Of course, in addition to the gold in jewelry, the metals most likely to be replaced are indium, gallium, germanium and silver.

Editor in charge: Wang Ning 12

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