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Ultrafast sol–gel synthesis of graphene aerogel materials

Lim, Matthew B., Hu, Matthew, Manandhar, Sandeep, Sakshaug, Avery, Strong, Adam, Riley, Leah, Pauzauskie, Peter J.
Carbon 2015 v.95 pp. 616-624
acetonitrile, adsorbents, crystallites, drying, electrical conductivity, electrochemistry, electrodes, gels, graphene, graphene oxide, manufacturing, photovoltaic cells, pyrolysis, spectroscopy, temperature, toxins
Graphene aerogels derived from graphene-oxide (GO) starting materials recently have been shown to exhibit a combination of high electrical conductivity, chemical stability, and low cost that has enabled a range of electrochemical applications. Standard synthesis protocols for manufacturing graphene aerogels require the use of sol–gel chemical reactions that are maintained at high temperatures for long periods of time ranging from 12 h to several days. Here we report an ultrafast, acid-catalyzed sol–gel formation process in acetonitrile in which wet GO-loaded gels are realized within 2 h at temperatures below 45 °C. Spectroscopic and electrochemical analysis following supercritical drying and pyrolysis confirms the reduction of the GO in the aerogels to sp2 carbon crystallites with no residual carbon–nitrogen bonds from the acetonitrile or its derivatives. This rapid synthesis enhances the prospects for large-scale manufacturing of graphene aerogels for use in numerous applications including sorbents for environmental toxins, support materials for electrocatalysis, and high-performance electrodes for electrochemical capacitors and solar cells.