NRC spearheading research efforts to develop graphene standards

February 16, 2017— Ottawa, Ontario

Model structure of graphene sheets

The National Research Council is leading a Special Interest Group (SIG) in consolidating research efforts to develop and propose standards for a versatile material with the potential to reshape the landscape of multiple industries. Graphene, one of the lightest and strongest materials ever discovered, is also praised for its ability to conduct heat and electricity. However, the quality of commercially available graphene-related materials is highly variable and currently no standards exist for characterizing graphene. This creates a situation where the numerous graphene materials available in the market cannot be reliably compared which, in turn, poses a serious risk for the reliable sourcing of material needed with the required properties for the targeted applications. Through the development and subsequent adoption of standards, confidence in graphene materials will be enhanced, thereby strengthening the graphene industry as a whole.

"The working group is an excellent opportunity for NRC to collaborate with Canadian graphene companies to determine optimal techniques to characterize graphene and develop standardized methods to compare it with other materials in applications," says Alan Steele, General Manager and Chief Metrologist at the National Research Council of Canada.

Current members and partners of the working group include Elcora Advanced Materials, Graphene Leaders Canada (GLC) Inc. and Saint Jean Carbon Inc. who will gain access to state-of-the-art facilities and advanced expertise in the characterization of graphene including various optical and scanning probe methods. The current focus of the SIG is on developing standards for graphene derived from graphite using exfoliation methods.

Spectra of commercial graphene from Raman Spectroscopy.

This research initiative is part of NRC's Nanocarbon Metrology project which has focused on the development of new capabilities to characterize a range of graphene-related materials including the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM), Raman spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Raman spectroscopy is a popular technique for the characterization of disordered and amorphous carbons, fullerenes, nanotubes, diamonds, carbon chains, and polyconjugated molecules. Raman techniques are particularly useful for graphene because the absence of a bandgap makes all wavelengths of incident radiation resonant, thus the Raman spectrum contains information about both atomic structure and electronic properties.

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) height image of commercial graphene oxide samples on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) surface.

X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) spectra of graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide.

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