Determining the Level and Location of Functional Groups on Few-Layer Graphene and Their Effect on the Mechanical Properties of Nanocomposites

Elizabeth J Legge, Keith R Paton, Magdalena Wywijas, Greg McMahon, Rory Pemberton, Naresh Kumar, Arun Prakash Aranga Raju, Craig P Dawson, Andrew J Strudwick, James W Bradley, Vlad Stolojan, S Ravi P Silva, Stephen A Hodge, Barry Brennan, Andrew J Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Graphene is a highly desirable material for a variety of applications; in the case of nanocomposites, it can be functionalized and added as a nanofiller to alter the ultimate product properties, such as tensile strength. However, often the material properties of the functionalized graphene and the location of any chemical species, attached via different functionalization processes, are not known. Thus, it is not necessarily understood why improvements in product performance are achieved, which hinders the rate of product development. Here, a commercially available powder containing few-layer graphene (FLG) flakes is characterized before and after plasma or chemical functionalization with either nitrogen or oxygen species. A range of measurement techniques, including tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS), time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), and NanoSIMS, were used to examine the physical and chemical changes in the FLG material at both the micro- and nanoscale. This is the first reported TERS imaging of commercially available FLG flakes of submicron lateral size, revealing the location of the defects (edge versus basal plane) and variations in the level of functionalization. Graphene-polymer composites were then produced, and the dispersion of the graphitic material in the matrix was visualized using ToF-SIMS. Finally, mechanical testing of the composites demonstrated that the final product performance could be enhanced but differed depending on the properties of the original graphitic material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13481-13493
Number of pages13
JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
Issue number11
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2020


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