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Image: ShutterstockIn 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselo, both of the Univ. of Manchester, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their experiments with graphene. Touted as the thinnest and strongest material, the carbon lattice is known for its extraordinary electrical, thermal and mechanical properties.

Now, two Binghamton Univ. researchers are working with the closely related material graphene oxide, and have discovered an eco-friendly process that enables spatial control over the material at sizes as small as 4 nm.

“There is significant interest in defining regions with different functionalities, and wiring circuitry into (2-D) materials,” said Jeffrey Mativestsky, an assistant professor at the university. “Our approach provides a way to directly pattern electrically conductive and insulating regions into graphene oxide with high spatial resolution.”

Mativetsky and PhD student Austin Faucett used the probe of an atomic force microscope to induce the local chemical reaction.

According to the researchers, the 2-D nanomaterial has serious potential. “At first, this will mainly be useful for studying fundamental properties and lab-scale devices,” said Mativetsky. “Eventually, this work may help lead to the practical integration of graphene oxide into low-cost and flexible electronics, solar cells and sensors.”

Recently, Mativetsky was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for ambient processing of graphene oxide. The funding is scheduled to last through August 2018.

“Unlike standard methods for manipulating the properties of graphene oxide, our process can be implemented under ambient conditions and is environmentally benign, making it a promising step towards the practical integration of graphene oxide into future technologies,” he added.

Graphene oxide’s versatility is due to its structure, which includes areas with and without oxygen atoms attached to the carbon atom lattice, according to the National Science Foundation. Removal of oxygen atoms vastly alters the electrical, optical and chemical properties of the nanomaterial.

Currently, oxygen removal methods require highly toxic chemicals, or exposure to high temperatures in humidity and oxygen-free environments.

The research grant is meant to uncover more about the kinetics, mechanisms and limits of the voltage-induced process, or the properties of the resulting material.

• CONFERENCE AGENDA ANNOUNCED:

The highly-anticipated educational tracks for the 2015 R&D 100 Awards & Technology Conference feature 28 sessions, plus keynote speakers Dean Kamen and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason.  Learn more.

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