Solution Conformations of Graphene Oxide Sheets, and Two-Dimensional Nanofluidics

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This work reports studies on the physical properties of collections of nanosheets. First, the configurations of graphene oxide sheets in solution are studied. Polarized optical microscopy reveals quickly and decisively that sheets remain flat and form lyotropic liquid crystals over a wide range of solvent conditions. When solvent conditions are inhospitable enough, sheets agglomerate into stacks rather crumpling upon themselves. Theory and simulation suggest that the crumpled state, which can be formed by compressing sheets, is metastable. This work might correct a persistent misunderstanding about the solution physics of graphene oxide. The other major area of study concerns the hydration layers in between lamellar stacks of exfoliated, restacked nanosheets. These layers comprise massive arrays of parallel two-dimensional nanofluidic channels, which exhibit enhanced unipolar ionic conductivity with counterions as the majority charge carriers. Based on the previously discovered graphene oxide nanofluidic platform, exfoliated vermiculite nanofluidic channels are constructed, which shuttle protons through the hydration channels by a Grotthuss mechanism, and which show superior thermal stability to graphene oxide. The 2D nanofluidics platform is also used to demonstrate “kirigami nanofluidics”, where ion transport can be manipulated by cutting the film into specific shapes. This can give rise to ionic current rectification. The rectification effect is attributed to the size and shape mismatch of the concentration polarization zones developed at the inlets and outlets of the nanofluidic channels. The kirigami nanofluidic platform can be used to fabricate ionic diodes and other simple devices. This material platform is expected to be a useful tool for nanofluidics researchers, because it offers a way to carry out nanofluidic experiments quickly with minimal equipment and little expense.

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  • 01/07/2019
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