The work is part of a paper published online by ACS Nano. Rice scientists described how graphene -- a single-atom-thick sheet of the same material in pencil lead -- can be made from just about any carbon source, including food, insects and waste.
The cookie gambit started on a dare when Tour mentioned at a meeting that his lab had produced graphene from table sugar.
"I said we could grow it from any carbon source -- for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time," Tour recalled. "So one of the people in the room said, 'Yes, please do it. ... Let's see that happen.'"
Members of Girl Scouts of the United States of America Troop 25080 came to Rice's Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process. Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, lead author of the paper, and Zhengzong Sun calculated that at the then-commercial rate for pristine graphene -- $250 for a two-inch square -- a box of traditional Girl Scout shortbread cookies could turn a $15 billion profit.