Graphene oxide is extremely versatile, with potential applications in many engineering fields. But for its effective use, control of its structure is essential. For instance, thin films and membranes require highly ordered nanoparticle arrangements; composites require dispersed nanoparticles, and hydrogels require 3D porous arrangements.
However, the structure of graphene oxide can vary significantly depending on its fabrication process and the amount of oxygen it contains. This makes its characterisation difficult, which in turn makes it challenging to understand the link between the structure of a graphene oxide flake and their final morphology in composites.
In a recent study conducted at University College London, scientists used a technique called multiscale modelling to gain insights into the driving forces behind the formation of different graphene morphologies. Using two polymers, poly-ethylene glycol and poly-vinyl alcohol, they conducted ‘bottom-up’ simulations, in which they observed how changes in the chemistry at the atomistic scale propagate up and ultimately shape the properties of graphene flakes and graphene oxide composites at much larger scales.
Overall, this study explains the sometimes unpredictable morphologies of graphene oxide and provides tools and rules to design new synthesis routes for desired graphene structures for various applications.
You can read the open access paper on the “Principles Governing Control of Aggregation and Dispersion of Graphene and Graphene Oxide in Polymer Melts” here.