Polymeric Composites and Foams based on Two Dimensional Surfactants
The challenge of mixing different materials such as plastics, particles, and solvents is one of the major factors hindering future advances in the development of functional materials with new or improved properties. A prominent example of this are graphene-based materials, where graphene's extraordinary combination of high strength, surface area, and conductivity cannot yet be fully utilized as graphene sheets tend to clump together and stack due to a lack of compatibility with other materials. Boron nitride sheets are another example of a promising material limited by the same problem. This project attempts to overcome this obstacle by utilizing the high-energy interface between two immiscible solvents to force stacked graphene sheets to exfoliate and spread. The understanding of governing physical principles of surface activity of graphene and boron nitride produced by this activity will be applied to form emulsions that serve as precursors for the synthesis of foam-like materials reinforced with graphene or boron nitride with optimized mechanical and electrical properties. These reinforced polymeric materials have the potential to be used as strong and lightweight structural materials, electrodes in capacitors and batteries, substrates for flexible electronics, electrically conductive, high surface area catalyst supports, and super-absorbent materials. The project will also be of societal benefit as a result of outreach activities built on the Chemistry Wizards Program designed to target middle school children learning about scientific inquiry. The program aims to spur students from underrepresented populations to pursue post-secondary study and careers in STEM fields.
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