Graphene Flake Self-Assembly Enhancement via Stretchable Platforms and External Mechanical Stimuli

ACS Omega. 2021 Nov 5;6(45):30607-30617. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.1c04368. eCollection 2021 Nov 16.

ABSTRACT

While the green production and application of 2D functional nanomaterials, such as graphene flakes, in films for stretchable and wearable technologies is a promising platform for advanced technologies, there are still challenges involved in the processing of the deposited material to improve properties such as electrical conductivity. In applications such as wearable biomedical and flexible energy devices, the widely used flexible and stretchable substrate materials are incompatible with high-temperature processing traditionally employed to improve the electrical properties, which necessitates alternative manufacturing approaches and new steps for enhancing the film functionality. We hypothesize that a mechanical stimulus, in the form of substrate straining, may provide such a low-energy approach for modifying deposited film properties through increased flake packing and reorientation. To this end, graphene flakes were exfoliated using an unexplored combination of ethanol and cellulose acetate butyrate for morphological and percolative electrical characterization prior to application on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates as a flexible and stretchable electrically conductive platform. The deposited percolative free-standing films on PDMS were characterized via in situ resistance strain monitoring and surface morphology measurements over numerous strain cycles, with parameters extracted describing the dynamic modulation of the film’s electrical properties. A reduction in the film resistance and strain gauge factor was found to correlate with the surface roughness and densification of a sample’s (sub)surface and the applied strain. High surface roughness samples exhibited enhanced reduction in resistance as well as increased sensitivity to strain compared to samples with low surface roughness, corresponding to surface smoothing, which is related to the dynamic settling of graphene flakes on the substrate surface. This procedure of incorporating strain as a mechanical stimulus may find application as a manufacturing tool/step for the routine fabrication of stretchable and wearable devices, as a low energy and compatible approach, for enhancing the properties of such devices for either high sensitivity or low sensitivity of electrical resistance to substrate strain.

PMID:34805689 | PMC:PMC8600623 | DOI:10.1021/acsomega.1c04368

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