A research team at Los Alamos, along with collaborators from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of New Mexico, and Rutgers University, has developed a new water-removal technique that improves the performance of carbon nanomaterials used in fuel cells and batteries. The study may present new avenues for designing advanced carbon nanomaterials for batteries and fuel cells.
The study gives an in-depth understanding of the role water plays in graphene oxide nanosheets or functionalized graphene sheets. Dry films of graphene oxide include a significant volume of added water that builds up between the oxygen-functionalized nanosheets and is also usually produced in aqueous solutions. The researchers showed how a simple solvent drying method can remove the accumulated water between the graphitic sheets. When water is removed, the physical structure of these graphene oxide nanosheets changes considerably, and the distance between the nanosheets is also reduced. In addition to this, the researchers also noted that the concentration of functional groups changed significantly, resulting in highly ordered structures. These changes ultimately led to improved electrocatalytic activity, which substantially improves the performance in batteries and fuel cells.