The exceptional functionality of graphene oxide, a product of graphite oxidation, lends itself to an ever-increasing number of applications from electronics to energy storage to water treatment.

For example, a novel alarm-sounding nonflammable, heat-resistant wallpaper incorporates an ink-based thermosensitive sensor based on graphene oxide. Biofouling during reverse osmosis is preventable with the addition of graphene oxide flakes to bacterially produced filtration membranes.

As with any emerging technology, graphene oxide use is not without its limitations. The compound must be Graphene oxide dough can be readily reshaped by cutting, molding and carving. Source: Jiaxing Huang/Northwestern University Graphene oxide dough can be readily reshaped by cutting, molding and carving. Source: Jiaxing Huang/Northwestern University stored as dry solids or in powder form, which are both prone to combustion. These materials must be converted into diluted dispersions, which require the addition of binders and additional processing steps.

A non-solution-based processing route developed at Northwestern University improves on this by producing graphene oxide in a dough state without the use of binders. Ultra-high concentrations of the material are added to water to form the dough, which is readily converted to thick gels by dilution or dense solids after drying.

The dough can be reshaped into structures and converted into dense solids that are electrically conductive, chemically stable and mechanically hard. It can also be processed to make bulk graphene oxide and graphene materials of different forms with tunable microstructures.

Storage and transportation benefits during manufacturing are afforded by this material state due to its high mass loading and compact form factors. High-quality dispersions are produced by adding water, and it is a safer form than dried powders or films because of its higher degree of hydration and cohesivity.

A paper on the research is published in Nature Communications.

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