Results of the study, titled "Stable Aqueous Dispersions of Non-Covalently Functionalized Graphene from Graphite and their Multifunctional High-Performance Applications," were published online Thursday, June 17, 2010, by the journal Nano Letters. The study, available at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl903557p, will also be the cover story of the November print edition of Nano Letters.
Graphene eluded scientists for years but was finally made in the laboratory in 2004 with the help of a common office supply clear adhesive tape. Graphite, the common material used in most pencils, is made up of countless layers of graphene. Researchers at first simply used the gentle stickiness of tape to pull layers of graphene from a piece of graphite.
Today, graphene fabrication is much more sophisticated. The most commonly used method, however, which involves oxidizing graphite and reducing the oxide at a later stage in the process, results in a degradation of graphene's attractive conductive properties, Kar said. His team took a different route.
The researchers dissolved 1-pyrenecarboxylic acid (PCA) in a solution of water and methanol, and then introduced bulk graphite powder. The pyrene part of PCA is mostly hydrophobic, and clings to the surface of the also-hydrophobic graphite. The mixture is exposed to ultrasonic sound, which vibrates and agitates the graphite. As the molecular bonds holding together the graphene sheets in graphite start to weaken because of the agitation, the PCA also exploits these weakening bonds and works its way between the layers of graphene that make up the graphite. Ultimately, this coordinated attack results in layers of graphene flaking off of the graphite and into the water. The PCA also helps ensure the graphene does not clump and remains evenly dispersed in the water. Water is benign, and is an ideal vehicle through which graphene can b
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute