World's thinnest material could come in handy as dispersing agent

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Washington, June 15 (ANI): Scientists have discovered new properties of graphene oxide, which could see the material being used as a dispersing agent for insoluble materials, like carbon nanotubes.

Graphene oxide is a single-atomic-layered material made by reacting graphite powders with strong oxidizing agents.

Researchers believe it could be used to produce low-cost carbon-based transparent and flexible electronics.

But to Jiaxing Huang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and his research group at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, graphene oxide itself is even more interesting.

Huang and his group have studied the material for years and have discovered how to assemble these soft sheets like floating water lilies pads.

They also used a camera flash to turn them into graphene, and invented a fluorescence quenching technique to make them visible under microscopes.

Now, working with Kenneth R. Shull, professor of materials science and engineering, they have discovered that graphene oxide sheets behave like surfactants, the chemicals in soap and shampoo that make stains disperse in water.

Graphene oxide has been known in the scientific world for more than a century and was largely described as hydrophilic, or attracted to water.

But Huang and his research group thought that graphene oxide should be amphiphilic, a property of surfactants that can both attracts and repels water, because part of the graphene oxide structure is actually water repelling.

Huang said: "We view graphene oxide as a soft material.

"For example, it is essentially two-dimensional polymers composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are also colloidal particles with very exotic shapes."

To test their hypothesis, Huang and his group put graphene oxide in carbonated water.

They found that the sheets can hitchhike onto the rising bubbles to reach the water surface - just like a surfactant would do.

They also discovered that graphite oxide can disperse oil droplets in water - just like a surfactant would.

This new insight into a fundamental property of the material, according to Huang, is important for understanding how graphene oxide is processed and handled.

It could lead to new applications for the material.

The findings of the study have appeared online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. (ANI)

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