Functionalized graphene for energy storage and conversion
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Graphene has great potential for energy storage and conversion applications due to its outstanding electrical conductivity, large surface area and chemical stability. However, the pristine graphene offers unsatisfactory performance as a result of several intrinsic limitations such as aggregation and inertness. The functionalization of graphene is considered as a powerful way to modify the physical and chemical properties of graphene, and improve the material performance, which unfortunately still being preliminary and need further knowledge on controllable functionalization methods and the structure-property relationships. This thesis aims to provide in-depth understanding on these aspects. We firstly explored oxygen-functionalized graphene for supercapacitor electrodes. A mild solvothermal method was developed for graphene preparation from the reduction of graphene oxide; the solvent-dependent reduction kinetics is an interesting finding in this method that could be attributed to the solvent-graphene oxide interactions. Using the solvothermal method, oxygen-functionalized graphene with controlled density of oxygen functional groups was prepared by tuning the reduction time. The oxygen-containing groups, primarily phenols and quinones, reduce the graphene aggregation, improve the wetting properties and introduce the pseudocapacitance. Consequently, excellent supercapacitive performance was achieved. Nitrogen-doped graphene was synthesized by the pyrolysis of graphene oxide with nitrogen-containing molecules and used as an electrocatalyst for oxygen reduction reactions. We achieved the structural control of the nitrogen-doped graphene, mainly the content of graphitic nitrogen, by manipulating the pyrolysis temperature and the structure of nitrogen-containing molecules; these experiments help understand the evolution of the bonding configurations of nitrogen dopants during pyrolysis. Superior catalytic activity of the prepared nitrogen-doped graphene was found, due to the enriched content of graphitic nitrogen that is most active for the oxygen reduction reaction. Moreover, we demonstrated a facile strategy of producing superhydrophobic octadecylamine-functionalized graphite oxide films. The long hydrocarbon chain in octadecylamine reduces the surface energy of the graphene oxide film, resulting in a high water contact angle and low hysteresis. The reaction mechanism and the effect of hydrocarbon chain length were systematically investigated. In addition to the researches on graphene-based materials, some results on advanced carbon nanomaterials and polymer composites for electronic packaging will also be discussed as appendix to the thesis. These include carbon nanotube-based capacitive deionizer and gas sensor, and hexagonal boron nitride-epoxy composites for high thermal conductivity underfill.