Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed a single-step process to achieve 3D texturing of graphene and graphite, using a commercially available thermally activated shape-memory polymer substrate. 

Since crumpled graphene was shown to have modulated electrical and optical properties, finding methods to produce folded/crumpled graphene surfaces can be helpful for various applications, like electronics and biomaterials, electrodes for battery and supercapacitor applications, coating layers, omniphobic/anti-bacterial surfaces for advanced coating applications and more. 

While graphene intrinsically exhibits tiny ripples in ambient conditions, this method creates large and tunable crumpled textures in a tailored and scalable fashion, via heat-induced contractile deformation of the underlying substrate. This is a relatively simple, scalable method that exploits the thermally induced transformation of shape-memory thermoplastics, which has been previously applied to microfluidic device fabrication, metallic  film patterning, nanowire assembly, and robotic self-assembly applications. 

The scientists have filed a patent for their method, as they believe that due to the low cost and ease of processing of this approach, it can become a new way to manufacture nanoscale topographies for graphene and many other 2D and thin-film materials.