Atomically-Thin Graphene Coatings to Transform Liquid Electronics

A new study by physicists at the University of Sussex will “significantly advance” a new technological field of liquid electronics by improving the functionality and resilience of likely applications in wearable health monitors, printed electronics and even batteries.

Drops of emulsion wrapped in graphene are applied to the electrodes for thin-film electronic devices with one drop. Image Credit: University of Sussex.

In their scholarly article published in ACS NanoResearchers from Sussex have added to their previous work to coat drops of the emulsion with graphene and other 2D materials, reducing coatings to atomically thin layers of nanolayers.

By doing so, they could develop electrically conductive liquid emulsions, which are the lowest load of graphene networks ever recorded – a total of 0.001 volume.

This means that the next liquid electronic technology – be it electronic devices printed with emulsion drops, voltage sensors to monitor physical performance and health, and even perhaps more efficient and durable batteries for electric vehicles – will be less expensive and more sustainable. because they will need less graphene or other 2D nanolayers covering the droplets.

Another important development was that researchers can now create these electronic drip networks using any liquid – while previous research has focused on conventional oils and water – since they have learned to regulate which drops of liquid are coated with graphene, meaning that they can develop emulsions just for the right application.

A researcher in materials physics at the University of Sussex School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences and lead author of the study, Dr. Sean Ogilvie explains the science behind the development: “The potential of 2D materials, such as graphene, lies in their electronic properties and recyclability; we have developed a process to use the surface area of ​​our nanolayer dispersions to stabilize emulsion droplets with ultra-thin coatings ”.

The customizability of these emulsions allows us to wrap 2D materials around any liquid droplets to exploit their electronic properties. This includes emulsion inks, in which we found that the droplets can be deposited without the effect of the coffee ring, which interferes with the printing of conventional functional inks, potentially allowing the creation of monocotyledonous films for transistors and other electronic devices.

Dr. Sean Ogilvie, lead author of research and research fellow in materials physics, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex

“Another interesting development for our research team is that we can now also design and control our emulsions for specific applications, such as wrapping soft polymers such as silicone, for wearable strain sensors that exhibit increased sensitivity at low graphene loads , and we are also investigating the assembly of the emulsion. materials for battery electrodes to increase the strength of these devices for energy storage, Added Dr. Ogilvy.

Alan Dalton, a professor of experimental physics at the University of Sussex, was first stimulated by the preparation of a salad dressing to investigate the potential of including graphene in liquid emulsions.

As a result of graphene coating liquid droplets sinking to atomically thin layers and widely opening up the potential for real applications, being able to do so with any liquid material, this research development will greatly advance a new and scientifically exciting field of liquid electronics.

Alan Dalton, Professor of Experimental Physics, University of Sussex

Information about the magazine:

Ogilvy, SP, et al. (2022) Stabilized nanolayer emulsions: almost minimal load and surface energy design of conductive networks. ACS Nano.


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