Graphene is a material that many of us come across in our day to day lives. From water filtration systems to mobile touch screens, clever material has revolutionized many aspects of the modern world.
It is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms, therefore it is referred to it as a two-dimensional material. Although, a collaborative effort from CNR Nano in Pisa, TU Wien (Vienna), and the University of Antwerp wanted to change that and unlock graphene’s true potential.
The 3D transformation
Their aim was to form a layer of graphene over a complex branching nanostructure. They did this firstly by using carefully controlled electrochemical processes. As reported in Carbon, the teams were able to convert the solid material of silicon carbide into a more porous open structure. “If you can control the porosity, then many different material properties can be influenced as a result,” explains Georg Pfusterschmied, an author of the paper.
“The starting material is silicon carbide – a crystal of silicon and carbon,” says Stefano Veronesi who was involved in the graphene growth over the nanostructure. “If you heat this material, the silicon evaporates, the carbon remains and if you do it right, it can form a graphene layer on the surface.”
What can 3D graphene be used for?
“This allows us to use the advantages of graphene much more effectively,” says Ulrich Schmid, from TU Wien. “The original motivation for the research project was to store hydrogen: you can temporarily store hydrogen atoms on graphene surfaces and then use them for various processes. The larger the surface, the larger the amount of hydrogen you can store.” These hydrogen storage vessels could be used, amongst other things, to create more energy efficient fuel cells.
Although, as the project continued the teams saw further potential in their surface area expanding idea. The invention also could be used for more sensitive chemical sensors. Sensors such as the ones used in smoke alarms, medical diagnosis, national defense, and environmental detection, to name a few.
Source study: Carbon – 3D arrangement of epitaxial graphene conformally grown on porousified crystalline SiC