FAU researchers make key break-through
Graphene is one of the most promising new materials. However, researchers across the globe are still looking for a way to produce defect-free graphene at low costs. Chemists at FAU have now succeeded in producing defect-free graphene directly from graphite for the first time. They recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12411).
Graphene is two dimensional and consists of a single layer of carbon atoms. It is particularly good at conducting electricity and heat, transparent and flexible yet strong. Graphene’s unique properties make it suitable for use in a wide range of pioneering technologies, such as in transparent electrodes for flexible displays.
However, the semi-conductor industry will only be able to use graphene successfully once properties such as the size, area and number of defects – which influence its conductivity – can be improved during synthesis. A team of FAU researchers led by Dr. Andreas Hirsch from the Chair of Organic Chemistry II has recently made a crucial break-through in this area. With the help of the additive benzonitrile, they have found a way of producing defect-free graphene directly from a solution. Their method enables the graphene – which is of a higher quality than ever achieved before – to be cut without causing defects and also allows specific electronic properties to be set through the number of charge carriers. Furthermore, their technique is both low-cost and efficient.
A common way of synthesising graphene is through chemical exfoliation of graphite. In this process, metal ions are embedded in graphite, which is made of carbon, resulting in what is known as an intercalation compound. The individual layers of carbon – the graphene – are separated using solvents. The stabilised graphene then has to be separated from the solvent and reoxidised. However, defects in the individual layers of carbon, such as hydration and oxidation of carbon atoms in the lattice, can occur during this process. FAU researchers have now found a solution to this problem. By adding the solvent benzonitrile, the graphene can be removed without any additional functional groups forming – and it remains defect-free.
‘This discovery is a break-through for experts in the international field of reductive graphene synthesis,’ Professor Hirsch explains. ‘Based on this discovery we can expect to see major advancements in terms of the applications of this type of graphene which is produced using wet chemical exfoliation. An example could be cutting defect-free graphene for semi-conductor or sensor technology.’
The method devised by FAU researchers has another advantage: the reduced benzonitrile molecule formed during the reaction turns red as long as it does not come into contact with oxygen or water. This change in colour allows the number of charge carriers in the system to be determined easily through absorption measurements. This could previously only be done by measuring voltage and means that graphene and battery researchers now have a new way of measuring the charge state.
Learn more: Low-cost and defect-free graphene
Florida Atlantic University (also referred to as FAU or Florida Atlantic) is a public university located in Boca Raton, Florida, with five satellite campuses located in the Florida cities of Dania Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, and in Fort Pierce at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
FAU belongs to the 12-campus State University System of Florida and serves South Florida, which has a population of more than five million people and spans more than 100 miles (160 km) of coastline. Florida Atlantic University is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university with high research activity. The university offers more than 180 undergraduate and graduate degree programs within its 10 colleges in addition to its sole professional degree from the College of Medicine. Programs of study span from arts and humanities, the sciences, medicine, nursing, accounting, business, education, public administration, social work, architecture, engineering, computer science, and more.
Florida Atlantic opened in 1964 as the first public university in southeast Florida, offering only upper-division and graduate level courses. Although initial enrollment was only 867 students, this number increased in 1984 when the university admitted its first lower-division undergraduate students. As of 2012, enrollment has grown to over 30,000 students representing 140 countries, 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since its inception, Florida Atlantic has awarded more than 110,000 degrees to nearly 105,000 alumni worldwide.
In recent years Florida Atlantic has undertaken an effort to increase its academic and research standings while also evolving into a more traditional university. The university has raised admissions standards, increased research funding, built new facilities, and established notable partnerships with major research institutions. The efforts have resulted in not only an increase in the university’s academic profile, but also the elevation of the football team to Division I competition status, the on-campus stadium, more on-campus housing, and the establishment of its own College of Medicine in 2010.
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