A new study shows that the availability of hydrogen plays a significant role in determining the chemical and structural makeup of graphene oxide, a material that has potential uses in nano-electronics, nano-electromechanical systems, sensing, composites, optics, catalysis and energy storage.
The study also found that after the material is produced, its structural and chemical properties continue to evolve for more than a month as a result of continuing chemical reactions with hydrogen.
Understanding the properties of graphene oxide – and how to control them – is important to realizing potential applications for the material. To make it useful for nano-electronics, for instance, researchers must induce both an electronic band gap and structural order in the material. Controlling the amount of hydrogen in graphene oxide may be the key to manipulating the material properties.
"Graphene oxide is a very interesting material because its mechanical, optical and electronic properties can be controlled using thermal or chemical treatments to alter its structure," said Elisa Riedo, an associate professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "But before we can get the properties we want, we need to understand the factors that control the material's structure. This study provides information about the role of hydrogen in the reduction of graphene oxide at room temperature."
The research, which studied graphene oxide produced from epitaxial graphene, was reported on May 6 in the journal Nature Materials. The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Georgia Tech, and by the U.S. Department of Energy.