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Coal transformed into a linchpin material for electric vehicles

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(Kitco News) - Using microwaves, scientists were able to convert coal into graphite, a key ingredient used in many high tech devices.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming published their findings in this year's Nano-Structures & Nano-Objects journal.

The scientists said that the "one-step method with metal-assisted microwave treatment" is a new approach that could represent a simple and relatively inexpensive coal-conversion technology.

The conversion requires four steps: high temperature, a reducing environment, a catalyst, and microwave radiation.

"This novel approach utilizes the sparking induced by the microwave radiation on the fork-shape metal foils to generate high temperature (> 1000 ºC) within few seconds," writes the researchers in their abstract for the science journal.

"The small thermal load makes this method cost-effective and has the potential for higher temperature using metals with higher melting temperature. Refinement of this technique is possible to yield higher quality and quantity of nano-graphite materials for a wider range of applications."

Converting abundant carbon sources into high-value materials has ecological and economic benefits, touted the head of the research team, Associate Professor TeYu Chien, in UW's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Others involved in the project were Professor Jinke Tang, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy; Associate Professor Brian Leonard, in the Department of Chemistry; Professor Maohong Fan, in the Department of Petroleum Engineering and the School of Energy Resources; graduate students Rabindra Dulal, of Nepal, Joann Hilman, of Laramie, Chris Masi, of Syracuse, N.Y., and Teneil Schumacher, of Buffalo; and postdoctoral researchers Gaurab Rimal, of Nepal, and Bang Xu, of China.

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