Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory created graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture using a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. These lightweight aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90% compressive strain). In addition, the researchers claim that these 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show great improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better mass transport.

A common problem in creating bulk graphene aerogels is the occurrence of a largely random pore structure, thus excluding the ability to tailor transport and additional mechanical properties of the material for specific applications such as batteries and sensors. Making graphene aerogels with engineered architectures is greatly assisted by 3D printing, which allows to design the pore structure of the aerogel, permitting control over many properties. This development, as per the scientists, could open up the design space for using aerogels in novel and creative applications.

The process includes making the graphene oxide (GO) inks are by combining an aqueous GO suspension and silica filler to form a homogenous, highly viscous ink. These GO inks are then loaded into a syringe barrel and extruded through a micronozzle to pattern 3D structures.