By Cameron Chai
A research team from the Rice University and the University of Colorado have submitted their findings in the behaviour of graphene slices when immersed in a solution. According to their findings, the graphene molecules when immersed in a liquid align themselves to form a nematic liquid crystal, having free-floating but aligned particles.
A single flake of graphene oxide roughly 40 microns wide, seen under an electron microscope, sits atop a copper support. Such "giant" flakes form into a gel-like liquid crystal in solution. Credit: Rice University/University of Colorado at Boulder
The new dimension in the crystal formation found by the scientist team is that the flakes of graphene are sufficiently large in size that they are able to remain aligned even when forming a gel like structure. The gel so formed can be used in the manufacture of metamaterials or fibers which have unique electronic and mechanical properties.
The research findings have been published in the journal Soft Matter of the Royal Society of Chemistry by MatteoPasquali, W.F. Chao Chair, James Tour and some post graduate students. Pasquali claimed that research on graphene and their fluid phases present a challenging and interesting proposition. He added that this area of research has not been explored fully and the electronic properties that arise out of the fluid state have not been given their due importance. He further explained that both graphene and graphene oxide can be used for applications that require high-strength materials with flexible electronic and conductive properties.
Further to some studies on graphene, the research team discovered that when the flakes of graphene were large enough, they formed a semisolid solution when suspended in water or any other fluid. When the gel was forced into a thin pipette and some of the water was evaporated, the flakes got even closer and stacked spontaneously though the stacking was imperfect. One of the research team members explained that graphene can be made into fibers, which can be used to induce order on particles like nanorods or used in mix-ins. Abilities of the graphene flakes to align themselves on gold, silver or palladium rods is an important property which would prove useful in constructing optoelectronic devices and metamaterials.