Oh, the Places You’ll Go with Graphene
Since the first reported isolation of graphene by peeling graphite with cellophane tape in 2004, there has been a paradigm shift in research. In just nine years, graphene has had a major impact on fields ranging from physics and chemistry to materials science and engineering leading to a host of interdisciplinary advances in nanotechnology. Graphene is attractive because it possesses many extraordinary characteristics that are a direct consequence of its unique atomic structure, as discussed here. For over a decade, our group has been exploring new routes to synthesize graphene so that this potentially important material can be scaled up for use in practical applications. We have made several significant discoveries starting with the synthesis of few-layer graphene from intercalation/exfoliation reactions that upon sonication produce carbon nanoscrolls. Next, we developed high-throughput methods for producing chemically converted graphene from graphene oxide using either aqueous or anhydrous hydrazine. Recently, we introduced an inexpensive process that uses the laser in an optical drive to deoxygenate graphite oxide layers to create laser scribed graphene. The impetus of this Account is to discuss both synthetic routes to graphene and their applications. The first part highlights both our top-down and bottom-up routes to graphene, which includes intercalation/exfoliation, chemical reduction with hydrazine and other organic reagents, chemical vapor deposition, and laser scribed graphene. In the later part, we emphasize the significance of these contributions to the field and how each approach has afforded us unique opportunities to explore graphene?s properties. This has resulted in new applications such as practical chemical sensors, flash memory storage devices, transparent conductors, distributed ignition, and supercapacitors.