Conformation and Alignment Control in Scalable Graphene Film Processing
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This project focuses on the characterization and control of graphene dynamics during liquid-phase processing. Graphene has outstanding mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties with a wide range of electronic and aerospace applications. However, conformation (internal configuration) and alignment (orientation) have a strong influence on the practical properties of graphene-based films. This project combines simulations with experimental studies of graphene dynamics during film processing. Two approaches are utilized: (1) Brownian Dynamics/Particle Tracking simulations are utilized to model graphene conformation during various film processing flows. This technique simulates graphene conformation as a function of space and time in a pre-computed dynamic flow field. (2) The same flows are experimentally utilized to produce conductive graphene-based thin films and graphene/polymer composite films. The effects of processing flow type and strength are quantified on both macroscopic film properties and nanoscale graphene conformation and alignment. Graphene conformation is quantified as a function of stabilizer type and sonication energy.If successful, these novel simulations and experiments will fill a critical need in the engineering community to provide fundamental scientific insight into the prediction, characterization, and control of graphene morphology in solution. The simulations and experiments identify the processing parameter space where flow forces promote the desired microstructure and properties for a given application; for instance, extensional flow forces can promote a flat, aligned graphene conformation for transparency and conductivity in thin films. This work has broad impacts for industrial processing techniques including (1) inkjet printing and roll-to-roll coating of transparent, conductive, thin films for use in electronics and (2) multifunctional nanocomposite coatings for reinforcement and sensing. These research tasks will be integrated with graduate and undergraduate education, with a heavy emphasis on curriculum development and independent undergraduate research training, in addition to outreach activities for undergraduates and K-12 students.