A team from Northwestern University literally redesigns the world of graphene.
The team has made graphene oxide (GO) a soft, malleable and kneadable play dough that can be shaped and reshaped into freestanding three-dimensional structures.
The product may have been called "GO Dough" It's fun to play with, but it's more than a toy. The malleable material solves several longstanding and sometimes explosive problems in the graphene manufacturing industry.
"Currently graphene oxide is stored as dry solids or powders that tend to burn," said Jiaxing Huang, who led the study. "Or they have to be converted into dilute dispersions that multiply the mass of material by hundreds or thousands."
Huang told of his last shipment of 5 kilograms of graphene oxide dispersed in 500 liters of liquid. "It had to be delivered in a truck," he said. "The same amount of graphene oxide in dough would weigh about 1
The study was published today (January 24) in the journal Nature Communications . Huang is a professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering.
Graphene oxide, a product of graphite oxidation, is commonly used to make graphene, a mononuclear thick carbon layer that is remarkably strong and lightweight, and is suitable for electronics and energy storage applications.  Just Add Water
Huang's team turned GO dough into water by adding an ultra-high concentration of graphene oxide. If the team had used binding additives, they would need to process the material to remove these additives to restore graphene oxide to its pure form.
"The addition of binders such as plastics can turn everything into a dough state." Said Huang. "However, these additives often change the material properties considerably."
After the dough has been formed into structures, it can be converted into dense solids that are electrically conductive, chemically stable and mechanically hard. The dough can also be mixed with more water to convert it into a high quality GO dispersion if needed. The dough can also be further processed to produce graphene oxide and graphene materials of different shapes with tunable microstructures. Huang hopes that the ease of use of GO Dough can help graphene achieve its much anticipated potential as a super-material.
"My dream is to turn graphene-based panels into a widely accessible, easy-to-use construction material, just like plastic glass and steel," Huang said. "I hope GO Dough can help stimulate new uses of graphene-based materials, just as Spielteig can inspire the imagination and creativity of young children."
Making carbon nanotubes as usable as ordinary plastics
Che-Ning Yeh et al., Binder-Free Graphene Oxide Doughs, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-08389-6