It might not be mass production just yet, but researchers at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have applied some (relatively) low technology to the problem of producing large quantities of graphene.
According to Electronics Weekly, the process is simple, doesn't need a controlled environment, and can be done at room temperature.
Led by Dr. Swastik Kar (Yes, really) the team reports that it is producing large quantities of graphene by immersing graphite in a mixture of methanol, water and 1-pyrenecarboxylic acid (PCA) and then giving the whole thing a bit of an ultrasonic shake.
The trick is in the combination of ultrasound and PCA.
First, a quick recap: Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal “chicken-wire” formation. Although the bonds holding the carbon atoms together are nice and strong, in graphite, layers of graphene are so weakly bonded that we can use the stuff as pencil lead. Indeed, graphene was first produced by peeling layers from a lump of graphite using sticky tape.
Put simply, the ultrasound further loosens the weakly bonded layers of graphene and the PCA inveigles its way in between the layers causing them to flake off. It also stops the newly freed graphene from clumping together.
A bit more promising than a production line involving sticky tape, I suspect you'll agree.