Researchers at the University of Illinois designed a single-step method of creating textures in graphene ("crumpling") to allow for larger surface areas, thus tapping into graphene's benefits for electronics. The scientists believe that "crumpled" graphene may also be used as high surface area electrodes for batteries and supercapacitors. As a coating layer, the 3D graphene could allow omniphobic/anti-bacterial surfaces for advanced coating applications.
The "crumpling" process is based on a known shape-memory polymer substrate (a material capable of returning to its original shape after being distorted, mostly by thermal means). The thermoplastic nature of the substrate also allows for the “crumpled” graphene morphology to be arbitrarily re-flattened at the same elevated temperature for the “crumpling” process. The researchers claim this method is low cost and fairly simple, making it suitable for adoption as a new way to manufacture nanoscale topographies for graphene and other 2D and thin-film materials. The team will go on to examine how the textured graphene surfaces could be applied to 3D sensor applications.