Article last updated on: Apr 17, 2019

Graphene, a 2D sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken wire pattern, is a fascinating material that boasts many exciting properties like mechanical strength, thermal and electrical conductivity, intriguing optical properties and more. Graphene is the focus of vigorous R&D, but its relatively high price is a hindrance at the moment.

Graphene to GO image

Graphene oxide is a form of graphene that includes oxygen functional groups, and has interesting properties that can be different than those of graphene. By reducing graphene oxide, these oxidized functional groups are removed, to obtain a graphene material. This graphene material is called reduced graphene oxide, often abbreviated to rGO. rGO can also be obtained from graphite oxide, a material made of many layers of graphene oxide, after a series of reduction to graphene oxide and then to rGO.

GO to rGO scheme image

How is rGO produced?

Since effective yet inexpensive ways to make graphene (or closely related materials, such as rGO) are being intensively sought for, the reduction of graphene oxide (or graphite oxide) to rGO is popular and attractive. Several methods of reduction into rGO exist, and are rather cost-efficient and simple.

While rGO is indeed a form of graphene with properties similar to that of graphene (good conductive properties etc.), rGO usually contains more defects and is of lesser quality than graphene produced directly from graphite. Reduced graphene oxide (rGO) contains residual oxygen and other heteroatoms, as well as structural defects. Despite rGO’s less-than-perfect resemblance to pristine graphene, it is still an appealing material that can definitely be sufficient in quality for various applications, but for more attractive pricing and manufacturing processes. Reduced graphene oxide can be used (depending on the specific material’s quality) for the same various applications suitable for graphene use, like composite materials, conductive inks, sensors and more.

Reduced GO is often a natural and understandable choice for applications that call for large amounts of material due to the relative ease in creating sufficient quantities of graphene in a relatively low cost.

The process of reducing graphene oxide to produce reduced graphene oxide is extremely important as it has a large impact on the quality of the rGO produced, and therefore will determine how close rGO will come, in terms of structure and properties, to pristine graphene.

A number of processes exist for the reduction of GO, based on chemical, thermal or electrochemical approaches. Some of these techniques are able to produce very high quality rGO, similar to high-quality graphene, but can be complex, expensive or time consuming to carry out.

Once reduced graphene oxide has been produced, there are ways to functionalize the material for specific use in different applications. By treating rGO with various chemicals or by creating new compounds by combining rGO with other two-dimensional materials, it’s possible to enhance the properties of the compound to suit commercial applications.

rGO powder image

In some applications, the reduction of the GO to rGO is performed as part of the device manufacturing process. For example, a process could start with GO, mix it with a material to create a composite, and reduce the GO into rGO as part of the composite creation process or afterwards.

rGO Applications

In general, it can be said that rGO is suitable for the same sorts of applications as graphene, as the properties of these materials are similar, albeit normally less impressive at the rGO end. As was said before, the properties of rGO can vary depending on the method of preparation and the resulting morphology and chemistry of the specific rGO.

Reduced GO can be used for many applications, among these are: energy storage, composite materials, field effect transistors and more.

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Navigate the emerging graphene market

This is a sponsored article by Dr Richard Collins, IDTechEx

Graphene is on the cusp of significant market growth; the opportunities are exciting and diverse, each with significant potential. Graphene and 2D Materials Europe 2020 (13-14 May, Berlin) is the largest B2B event on the topic with a dedicated focus on the commercial frontiers.

Graphene & 2D Materials Europe 2020 leader

There is often confusion surrounding the types of graphene, commercial status, and their target markets. This article will briefly summarise each and showcase what to expect at this event.

US energy department funds project for coal-derived graphene production process

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected three projects to receive approximately USD$3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects.

Among these projects is a laboratory-scale coal-derived graphene process – the University of North Dakota will demonstrate a laboratory-scale coal-derived graphene process to produce graphene oxide, reduced graphene oxide, and graphene quantum dots starting from domestic US coal.

Will graphene oxide be the answer to mosquito bites?

A new study by Brown University shows that graphene sheets can block the signals mosquitoes use to identify a potential blood 'donor', which may enable a new chemical-free approach to mosquito bite prevention.

Graphene oxide may be the answer to mosquito bites image

The researchers showed that multilayer graphene can provide a two-fold defense against mosquito bites. The ultra-thin yet strong material acts as a barrier that mosquitoes are unable to bite through. At the same time, experiments showed that graphene also blocks chemical signals mosquitoes use to sense that a blood meal is near, blunting their urge to bite in the first place. The findings suggest that clothing with a graphene lining could be an effective mosquito barrier, the researchers say.

New method 'stitches' together rGO sheets into ultra-strong films

A team of researchers from China has reported a novel strategy to 'stitch' together reduced graphene oxide (rGO) nanosheets into ultra-strong, tough, and highly conductive graphene films using only small amounts of cross-linker. They show that the bridging of long-chain π-π bonding agent between neighboring rGO nanosheets can provide substantial improvement in multiple properties including tensile strength, toughness, electrical conductivity, EMI shielding capability, and resistance to mechanical damage.

Chinese team stitches rGO sheets to get ultrastrong films image

"Our graphene films not only demonstrate a record tensile strength of almost 1.1 GPa, but exceptional abilities to absorb mechanical energy, transport charge, and shield electromagnetic interference that are comparable to or even superior to graphene films annealed at much higher temperatures," says Qunfeng Cheng, a professor at Beihang University in Beijing. "Our process uses abundant natural graphite as a raw material at room temperature. This novel strategy can provide an inspiration for converting low-priced graphite powders into much higher performance macroscopic graphene films for diverse commercial uses in the future."

Global Graphene Group launches a graphene-silicon Li-Ion battery anode material

Global Graphene Group, and its subsidiary Angstron Energy (AEC) has developed a new graphene/silicon composite anode material (GCA-II-N) which can increase the capacity of Li-Ion batteries while reducing the battery's size and weight. AEC current market focus is on electronic bikes and consumer electronics, but is also working with Tier-1 electric cars and trucks makers.

Global Graphene Group graphene-silicon anode material
AEC tells us that by wrapping single-layer graphene (or r-GO) around silicon nanoparticles, the volume expansion/contraction of the Silicon during the battery's charge/discharge cycle can be cushioned by the flexibility and mechanical strength of the graphene. The graphene sheets also form a 3D conductive network which ensures good electrical contacts between the Silicon particles and the current collector.