Graphite Oxide: Structure, Reduction and Applications
Ajayan, Pulickel M.
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis proposes a modified structure model for graphite oxide (GO), an important precursor in graphene chemistry, develops a new strategy to convert GO back to graphene-like structure, and demonstrates its possible applications in both water purification and supercapacitor technologies. GO, a nontraditional compound first obtained from graphite oxidation over 150 years ago, is now becoming an important player in the production of graphene-based materials, which has high technological relevance. GO structure and reduction have been vigorously investigated, but its precise chemical structure still remains obscure, and the complete restoration of the sp2 carbon lattice has not yet been achieved. In our work, solid state 13C NMR (MAS) analysis offered a piece of evidence for five or six-membered ring lactol structure existing in GO that had never been assigned before, leading to a modified Lerf-Klinowski model for GO. A three-step reduction strategy, involving sodium borohydride (NaBH4), sulfuric acid, and high temperature thermal annealing, described in the thesis, successfully reduced GO back to chemically converted graphene (CCG) with the lowest heteroatom abundance among all those previously reported. In addition to the chemical significance of graphene/CCG production, GO and its derivatives were used as novel adsorbents in water purification. GO-coated sand showed higher retention than ordinary sand for both Rhodamine B and mercuric ion (Hg2+) contaminants in water. Further functionalization of GO with thiophenol resulted in better adsorption capacity toward Hg2+ than that of activated carbon. In addition, free-standing films of GO were treated and reduced with a CO2 laser beam into different conductive reduced GO (RGO) patterns, and directly used as supercapacitor devices which showed good cyclic stability and energy storage capacities comparable to that of existing thin film ultracapacitors. GO turned out to be a solid electrolyte with anisotropic proton conductivity similar to Nafion, while the large amount of trapped water in GO played an important role.
Graphite oxide; Water purification; Reduction; Supercapacitors