Graphene Oxide Versatile Applications

Graphene Oxide Versatile Applications:

From Sensing Technologies to Environmental Solutions

Graphene and its derivatives such as graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) are two-dimensional, sheet-like carbon nanomaterials with a wide range of opportunities for numerous applications due to their thinness, transparency, conductivity, flexibility, chemical stability, impermeability, and mechanical strength. In the case of GO and rGO, in addition to their large surface area with hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions inherent to graphene, they allow the adsorption of organic aromatic molecules, ions, and polymers through π-π stacking, hydrogen bonding, and electrostatic interactions. These properties make them suitable materials for constructing sensors or biocatalytic and photocatalytic platforms. According to various reports, the surface-to-volume ratio of graphene materials enhances the surface charge of the desired molecules, while their excellent electrical conductivity, especially at room temperature, favors electron transfer to the surface of electrodes for analysis or photocatalysis.

On the other hand, graphene sheets are not perfectly flat; they exhibit undulations formed as a result of the bonding between their carbon atoms or thermal fluctuations, which can ultimately induce magnetic fields and alter their electronic properties for designing sensors, biosensors, or electronic devices in general. Thus, through more than ten years of research and exploration of their remarkable multifunctionality, the study of graphene has transcended to the development of highly sensitive devices for monitoring, for example, the presence of harmful gases, medically relevant molecules, or proteins, and even water decontamination.

Detection Systems

Metamaterials are a type of compound with the ability to produce useful electromagnetic responses for designing sensors or non-destructive detection devices. Generally, these sensors consist of an insulating material and a conductive material, sensitive to the refractive index of the analyte’s upper layer. In the presence of graphene, it has been observed that this interaction (sensor-analyte) is enhanced by changes in resonance intensity, leading to amplitude changes that further favor detection sensitivity.

In a study conducted in 2023 by the School of Electronic and Information Engineering at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, Hangzhou, China, a sensor was designed comprising a polyimide (PI) film as an insulating layer, an aluminum structure as a conductive layer, and a monolayer of graphene as the detection interface. Simulation results indicated that graphene could modulate the entire electric field and produce an amplitude change that significantly increases detection limits.

In another study conducted at the Laboratory of Nanostructured Materials of the Institute of Physics at UASLP, functionalized graphene oxide with gold nanoparticles was used as a SERS (Surface Enhanced Raman spectroscopy) biodetection platform, an important technique for biological detection due to its high sensitivity, low sample requirements, relatively low cost, and real-time detection. Crystal violet was used as the standard molecule and flavin adenine dinucleotide as the experimental coenzyme for its participation in numerous redox processes of metabolic reactions and biological electron transport. The results showed that graphene oxide hybrids with gold nanoparticles substantially enhance SERS signals compared to individual nanoparticles. Additionally, the results are consistent with other research on identifying significant improvements for molecule stabilization and fluorescence reduction during measurements, which is often a major drawback of such techniques, supporting its potential as a diagnostic or monitoring tool.

Toxic Gas Removal

Advances in nanoengineering allow graphene and GO sheets to be manipulated for the detection and separation of certain gases. According to the results of a study conducted by the Department of Energy Engineering at Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea, selective diffusion can be achieved by controlling the gas flow channels and pores through different stacking methods, demonstrating that GO’s functional groups provide a unique adsorption behavior towards CO2.

CO2 Conversion

The photocatalytic properties of GO can also be harnessed for converting CO2 into hydrocarbons such as methanol for solar energy capture and CO2 reduction. In 2018, at the Advanced Technology Laboratory for Materials Synthesis and Processing, Wuhan University of Technology, China, silver chromate (Ag2CrO4) nanoparticles were used as a photosensitizer and GO as a co-catalyst for the photocatalytic reduction of CO2 into methanol and methane. The study concluded that this synergy between nanoparticles could enhance conversion activity up to 2.3 times under solar irradiation due to better light absorption, increased CO2 adsorption, and improved charge separation efficiency.

Water Decontamination

Water technologies have various areas of opportunity, particularly in improving filtration or membrane systems. In this regard, it has been found that using hybrid graphene nanostructures, for example, with ruthenium or magnetite, can allow the removal of microorganisms and organic matter present in water. However, research continues to advance to perfect graphene-based methodologies for the removal and reduction of metal ions such as zinc, copper, lead, cadmium, cobalt, among others.

At Energeia-Graphenemex®, we recognize and admire the advancements that research centers have achieved in various areas of knowledge, starting from basic science to applied science results. We firmly believe that in the short or medium term, these technologies will materialize into real products that are useful to society and the environment.

Redaction: EF/ DHS   


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