Understanding The Process of Making Electronics From Unrefined Coal

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While the whole world is moving towards getting the best from renewable resources, there are some engineers who are trying to change the view for non-renewable resources. Don’t get them wrong, all they are trying to do is repurposing this combustible fuel into a wide range of electronic equipment for a number of industries like healthcare, aviation, and energy. Coal has always been used for a number of reasons but least people tried to explore its optical and electronic properties. No one ever tries to include it into electronic devices, had that been done much of the exploitation of this resource could be avoided. A few days back, a few researchers showcased how unrefined coal can be utilized in creation of simple electrical heating device that can further be used in airplane wings and car windows. It also led the researchers to work in detail over the chemical, optical, and electrical properties of very minute films of different classes of coal: bituminous, lignite, and anthracite.

The research dictates that raw coal has numerous innate properties that are needed in electrical devices. For instance, unrefined coal displays a wide range of conductivity that extends up to seven orders of magnitude. This provides a clear edge over silicon that need intense refinement much suited to electrical components. Coal is mainly made up of carbon along with organic matter that has been subjected to decaying and pressure for almost a million years. The varieties that researchers selected for this purpose are the ones that have been in this world for a few hundred years now.  

In words of Nicola Ferralis, “We usually want to make materials from scratch, carefully combining pure materials in precise ratios. In this case, though, the process involves selecting from among this huge library of materials, all with their own different variations.”

Another specific obstacle that they faced was in figuring out the processing of unrefined material. For studying its electrical properties, they formed a series of steps under which lots of coal was crushed in form of powder, suspended in a particular solution, and was then fixed on a substrate in form of a thin uniform film. The simple device they formed from this process proves an end-to-end demo of how a material can be used from coal grinding up to deposition in form of thin film and finally used for the formation of electronic equipment. Additionally, engineers also discovered that small adjustments in temperatures of coal processing, they were able to fine tune a number of electrical and optical properties of coal up to the required level.

Coal has been used in chemical industry in raw from for since centuries, it is for the first time someone has attempted to apply a new approach towards it. In words of an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Temple University, Shenqian Ran, “This is significant step to utilize nanocarbon materials, directly from unrefined coal, with controllable electronic properties and excellent stability and scalability.”