Penn State researchers are exploring the method of dubbed intercalation to determine if this technique could be used to produce graphene to an industrial scale. Dubbed intercalation uses guest molecules or ions inserted between the carbon layers of graphite to draw single sheets apart. The method required a strong oxidizing agent that reduced desirable properties, and that method was developed in 1999.
The researchers tested this method without the oxidizing agent on a material similar to graphene, solid boron nitride, to see if they would be able to open all the layers and were successful in this experiment. The next step was using actual graphene, but all previous research said that oxidation would be required in the process. The researchers tried the method without the oxidizing agent and were able to successfully open the graphene layers. Additional research needs to be performed to improve the reaction speed of the chemicals to improve the efficiency for industrial use.