Fabrication of Conductive Graphene Aerogel Membranes with Selective Adsorbent Capabilities
Permeable membranes are useful in multifarious applications, e.g. gas and water filters, sensors, cellular membranes (e.g. artificial skin), drug delivery patches, and high energy density batteries etc. Aerogel is a polymeric material fabricated by removing the liquid phase in a gel, creating a low density 3D scaffold with ultra-porous microstructures. Research has been focused on building several low cost environmentally friendly aerogels based on crosslinking nanocellulose with 1,4-butanediol diglycidyl ether (BDE), followed by a freeze drying and a thermal curing process. Conductive aerogels involving crosslinking nanocellulose and graphene oxide (produced in house using Hummers method) with BDE were also made. Graphene aerogels are also known as aerographene, a unique conductive material with astounding structural robustness, ultra-low density, absorbency (capacity to absorb over 500 times its own weight) and elasticity, easily retaining original shape after numerous compression cycles. Both types of aerogels are highly stable and are capable of rapidly and repeatedly separating oil from water via adsorption, like a sponge. Further work includes the removal of simple cations such as Na+, Ca2+, K+ etc using aerographene under voltage, which could point to its use for water desalination. The combination of adsorption capabilities and ease of use makes the produced aerographene a potential solution to remove a diverse range of contaminants from a water supply.
* Indicates faculty mentor.