Exfoliation of Graphene in Volatile Solvents Using Aromatic Surfactants

Graphene continues to be of great interest because of its outstanding electrical, mechanical, thermal, and optical properties. In view of their high surface-to-volume ratio, graphene-based materials (GRMs) are particularly appealing as nanofillers in polymer nanocomposites, especially for structural applications in the aerospace and automotive industries, and in sports equipment; this is confirmed by the increasing number of final products on the market containing graphene-based composites.

The industrial-scale production of GRMs relies on ultrasound-induced liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite into graphene sheets. Although this approach is cost-effective, there is still room for improvement and the market penetration of GRMs as an advanced material is still limited.

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A multidisciplinary group led by Andrea Liscio at CNR, Bolgna, Italy, has reported in ChemPlusChem that adding aromatic surfactants, such aromatic perylene diimide (PDI) dyes, promotes the exfoliation of few-layers graphene nanosheets in low-boiling organic solvents. It is thought that the PDI molecules physisorb on the surface of the graphene flakes and stabilize them in solution. Given that the surfactants used—-PDI dyes—-already serve as polymer additives, the process described may be compatible with large-scale application in the polymer industry. The composite materials obtained in this way can be included in a straightforward way in elastomer or thermoplastic materials rendering them conductive.

This article is part of the Early Career Series: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)2192-6506/earlyview

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