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Controlled Sonication As A Route To In-situ Graphene Flake Size Control

P. Turner, M. Hodnett, R. Dorey, J. Carey
Published 2019 · Materials Science, Medicine

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Ultrasonication is widely used to exfoliate two dimensional (2D) van der Waals layered materials such as graphene. Its fundamental mechanism, inertial cavitation, is poorly understood and often ignored in ultrasonication strategies resulting in low exfoliation rates, low material yields and wide flake size distributions, making the graphene dispersions produced by ultrasonication less economically viable. Here we report that few-layer graphene yields of up to 18% in three hours can be achieved by optimising inertial cavitation dose during ultrasonication. We demonstrate that inertial cavitation preferentially exfoliates larger flakes and that the graphene exfoliation rate and flake dimensions are strongly correlated with, and therefore can be controlled by, inertial cavitation dose. Furthermore, inertial cavitation is shown to preferentially exfoliate larger graphene flakes which causes the exfoliation rate to decrease as a function of sonication time. This study demonstrates that measurement and control of inertial cavitation is critical in optimising the high yield sonication-assisted aqueous liquid phase exfoliation of size-selected nanomaterials. Future development of this method should lead to the development of high volume flow cell production of 2D van der Waals layered nanomaterials.
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