The pyrolysate solvents that make up most pencils, pens, and markers are not just expensive but are notoriously toxic.
Now researchers have invented a new way of making pencils that uses a different type of solvent and is environmentally friendly.
The new material is a type of graphite lubricants, or gels.
They are used in pencils for a variety of reasons including to help them glide on paper, but the new material could have a wider application.
Dr Robert Jang said his team had already discovered a new class of graphitic lubricants in their research, but had never been able to make them.
He said it had been a matter of “getting the right materials and materials combinations” to make the gels that were being used.
“We are now moving into the realm of industrial gels,” he said.
“The industrial gel industry is in a very challenging spot right now, because the industrialisation of our industry is coming down.”
But the industry is moving very fast, and there is a lot of work to be done.
“Now that we have found a good way to do it and a very efficient way to use graphite that is a good match to the industrial gelling industry, we are going to have a much more efficient industrial process for the industrial graphite.”
Professor Robert Janko from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New South Wales said the new industrial geling process was much simpler than previously thought, making it easier to scale up.
“It’s actually very easy to do, and in the future it could be something that would be really scalable,” he told ABC News.
“But at the moment it’s not scalable.”
Professor Janki said he had been working on the technology for about 10 years, with the first prototype being used to make a prototype gel called Suede.
The Suedeburger, which has a gel in it, is a thin gel made of graphitite.
Professor Jang was also involved in a research paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, in which the researchers showed graphite gels were less toxic than the graphite gel used in graphite markers and pencils.
Professor Robert said the material he used was the first to be made from graphite as part of a larger industry research effort.
“A lot of the work that we are doing is focused on finding the best material for the industry,” he explained.
“Our primary goal is to find the right industrial gell material, and we found this material.”
Professor Lee Han-sang from the National University of Singapore, who also did the research, said it was a breakthrough for the material.
“This is the first time that we’ve found a new graphitic material with high mechanical properties that has the ability to move through the solvate,” he added.
“And it’s also a material that can be made using only the same process that was used for the graphitites in our previous experiments.”
Professor Han-Sang said he was excited about the potential for this new material.