Preparation and characterization of graphene oxide
Dmitriy A. Dikin1, Sasha Stankovich1, Eric J. Zimney1, Richard D. Piner1, Geoffrey H. B. Dommett1,
Guennadi Evmenenko2, SonBinh T. Nguyen3& Rodney S. Ruoff1
Free-standing paper-like or foil-like materials are an integral part
of our technological society. Their uses include protective layers,
chemical filters, components of electrical batteries or supercapa-
citors, adhesive layers, electronic or optoelectronic components,
and molecular storage1. Inorganic ‘paper-like’ materials based on
nanoscale components such as exfoliated vermiculite or mica
platelets have been intensively studied2,3and commercialized as
protective coatings, high-temperature binders, dielectric barriers
and gas-impermeable membranes4,5. Carbon-based flexible
graphite foils6–8composed of stacked platelets of expanded graph-
ite have long been used9,10in packing and gasketing applications
because of their chemical resistivity against most media, superior
sealability over a wide temperature range, and impermeability to
fluids. The discovery of carbon nanotubes brought about bucky
paper11, which displays excellent mechanical and electrical prop-
erties that make it potentially suitable for fuel cell and structural
composite applications12–15. Here we report the preparation and
characterization of graphene oxide paper, a free-standing carbon-
vidual graphene oxide sheets. This new material outperforms
bination of macroscopic flexibility and stiffness is a result of a
unique interlocking-tile arrangement of the nanoscale graphene
Graphite oxide is a layered material consisting of hydrophilic oxy-
genated graphene sheets (graphene oxide sheets) bearing oxygen
functional groups on their basal planes and edges. Graphite-oxide-
based thin films have been fabricated via solvent-casting methods16
but it is not clear whether the graphite oxide dispersions used were
completely exfoliated into individual sheets. In addition, the mor-
phology andmechanical propertiesofthe resulting thin-filmmateri-
als have not been elucidated in detail.
ite oxide can undergo complete exfoliation in water, yielding col-
loidal suspensions of almost entirely individual graphene oxide
sheets17–19with a mean lateral dimension of approximately 1mm.
Such sheets can be chemically functionalized, dispersed in polymer
matrices, and deoxygenated to yield novel composites18. We thus
sought a method for assembling these graphene oxide sheets into
well-ordered macroscopic structures. We found that, similar to car-
bon nanotubes11, graphene oxide sheets could indeed be assembled
of colloidal dispersions of graphene oxide sheetsthrough an Anodisc
membrane filter yielded, after drying, free-standing graphene oxide
paper with thicknesses ranging from 1 to 30mm (Supplementary
Information 1). This material is uniform and dark brown under
transmitted white light and almost black in reflection when thicker
than 5mm (Fig. 1a–c). The fracture edges of a graphene oxide paper
sample when imaged via scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
revealed well-packed layers through almost the entire cross-section
ofthepapersamples, sandwichedbetweenlessdensely packed‘wavy’
skin layers that were about 100–200nm thick (Fig. 1e–g).
The layering in our graphene oxide paper is evident from its X-ray
diffraction pattern (Fig. 1h). The peak in the X-ray spectrum of a
typical graphene oxide paper specimen corresponds to the layer-to-
layer distance (d-spacing) of about 0.83nm. From studies on the
dependence of d-spacing in graphite oxide on the water content20,
the measured distance can be attributed to an approximately one-
molecule-thick layer of water that is presumably hydrogen-bonded
between the graphene oxide sheets21. The mean dimension of an
ordered stack of graphene oxide sheets in the paper material that
are oriented perpendicularly to the diffracting plane was calculated
from the width of the X-ray diffraction peak using the Debye–
Scherrer equation22, and was found to be 5.260.2nm. This size
corresponds to about 6 to 7 stacked graphene oxide sheets.
observed for samples of graphene oxide paper: straightening, almost
of most paper-like or foil-like materials; however, graphene oxide
‘waviness’ in the graphene oxide paper at different length scales, the
initial straightening during the tensile loading is quite small. The
rupture of graphene oxide paper samples loaded beyond the ‘elastic’
regime is not accompanied by any pull-out of its lamellae, and pro-
duces almost straight and flat fracture surfaces (Fig. 1e–g). This is in
contrast to the rupture of bucky paper, and suggests good material
homogeneity and strong interlayer binding. The ultimate tensile
strain for graphene oxide paper (0.6% was the highest recorded
number for samples that did not exhibit slip–stick behaviour, see
below) is comparable to that of flexible graphite foils (0.5% along
the rolling direction), and much lower than that of vermiculite
(2.5%) and bucky paper (3–5.6%) prepared by similar filtration
strategies. However, the work of extension to fracture for graphene
oxide paper is as high as 350kJm23(,190Jkg21, at the material
are more than ten times higher than the corresponding values for
flexible graphite foils6,7, and of similar magnitude to the values for
‘pristine’ bucky paper15,23.
Tensile test measurements of our graphene oxide paper revealed
average modulus of graphene oxide paper was determined to be
32GPa (average from 31 tested samples, Supplementary Infor-
mation 2) with the highest being 4262GPa. These values are much
higher than those reported for bucky paper23, paper-like materials
Vol 448|26 July 2007|doi:10.1038/nature06016
based on vermiculite2(prepared by either filtration or casting strat-
egies), and flexible graphite foil6(Fig. 3). The tensile strength of our
graphene oxide paper is also considerably higher than values
obtained for flexible graphite foil and bucky paper, and is only
slightly lower than the highest value reported for vermiculite-based
paper materials2(Fig. 3).
were introduced in the samples even when they were loaded within
the limits of the ‘elastic’ regime (Fig. 2c). Both the load and unload
portions of each subsequent cycle displayed an increase in modulus
of elasticity with a total increase of about 20% after five cycles. Such
self-reinforcing behaviour is well known for aligned polymer chains
and other fibrous materials24, where tensile loading can lead to a
macromolecular/fibril alignment along the load direction and a
mechanically stiffer sample. Similarly, stretching graphene oxide
paper should lead to a better alignment of the two-dimensional
lamellae and thus also the individual graphene oxide sheets, increase
their contact and interactions, and result in a stiffer material. This
behaviour of graphene oxide paper is in stark contrast to that of
flexible graphite foil for which the elasticity modulus decreases upon
Interestingly, the stress–strain curves for graphene oxide paper
samples often displayed ‘washboard’ patterns and sometimes even
sharp upturns (Supplementary Information 3), manifested as a
sequence of the peaks in the derivative (ds/de) of the stress–strain
curve (Fig. 2d). Similar local-reinforcing behaviour was observed
during basal plane shear in single-crystal graphite25and in the
material produced by layer-by-layer assembly of montmorillonite
clay platelets and polyelectrolytes26. However, if the sample was
loaded into the plastic regime (Fig. 2b) and failed, then the stiffness
of the reloaded segments at low strain was similar to that of the
original sample just before its failure. These results indicate that
the loss of material stiffness is not a local effect, but rather a homo-
geneous softening of the paper upon loading in this manner. In
11 µm thick
22 µm thick
Intensity (arbitrary units)
Figure 1 | Morphology and structure of graphene oxide paper. a–d, Digital
camera images of graphene oxide paper. a, ,1-mm-thick (the Northwestern
University logo is beneath the paper); b, folded ,5-mm-thick semi-
transparent film; c, folded ,25-mm-thick strip; d, strip after fracture from
tensile loading. e–g, Low-, middle- and high-resolution SEM side-view
0.02 0.1 0.4
Figure 2 | Examples of the tensile behaviour for a few representative
graphene oxide paper samples. (See Supplementary Information 2 for
listing of sample characteristics). a, Stress–strain curve for a 5.2-mm-thick
sample (5-1, red) and reloaded fragment-sample (5-1-R, blue). The
and (III) plastic. b, Stress–strain curve for a 5.5-mm-thick sample (6-3, red)
and reloaded fragment-sample (6-3-R, blue). c, Stress–strain curve for a
cyclically loaded 11-mm-thick sample (12-3). The solid lines indicate the
loading part of the cycle and the dashed lines indicate the release part of the
cycle. The blue and red lines are fittings of the linear stress–strain
dependence with a modulus of elasticity of 27 and 32GPa, respectively.
d, The derivatives of the stress–strain curves for four different samples,
revealing the ‘washboard’ pattern in the tensile loading behaviour.
e, Stress–strain curve for a 5.5-mm-thick sample (6-4) and a reloaded
fragment (6-4-R) showing slip–stick behaviour. f–h, Stress–strain cyclic
measurements for an 11-mm-thick sample (12-4) at 40uC, 90uC and 120uC,
respectively. i, Linear thermal contraction of the same 11-mm-thick sample
recorded between tensile tests (coefficient for linear negative thermal
expansion, about 25031026K21). The red curve in h indicates the final
sample pulling step before fracture.
NATURE|Vol 448|26 July 2007
exceptional situations, the stress–strain response had several consec-
make up the macroscopic sample slide and then ‘click’ into place
when progressively stressed.
Given that water molecules are present between graphene oxide
sheets (see above) one would expect the mechanical properties of
graphene oxide paper to depend strongly on its water content.
Indeed, as the moisture content of graphene oxide paper decreases
with increasing temperature (see thermogravimetric analysis curve,
Supplementary Information 6), the modulus increases (from 17 to
of water is also accompanied by slow contraction of the graphene
oxide paper (Fig. 2i). Simultaneously, the magnitude of permanent
deformation decreases for each loading cycle conducted at 40, 90
and 120uC, respectively (Fig. 2g, h). This water-related behaviour
is similar incellulose-basedpaper: awet sheet has lower strength and
stiffness than does a dry one27.
In addition to tensiletests, we performed bending experiments (see
Supplementary Information 5) for several samples of graphene oxide
before the loss of structural stability (that is, kink formation).
of an isotropically homogeneous material28, the positive (or negative)
linear fitting of experimental points (red line in Fig. 4a) gives the
average normal strain value ex<1.160.1%. As the ultimate tensile
strain of graphene oxide paper is only 0.6% (see above), it can sustain
more deformation during bending than during uniaxial tension.
The mechanics of deformation at tension and bending are schem-
atically shown in Fig. 4e. The uniaxial tension leads to an equal
(across the sample) distribution of stresses, which are transferred
mostly through the shear deformation of the interlamellar adhesive
(hydrogen-bonded water molecules), whereas the material bending
introduces very localized stresses at the paper surfaces. The stress at
of shear and pull-out of the water adhesive and results in delamina-
tion of layers, particularly along the defects in the stacked structure
(Fig. 4e and d). At the inner surface, this stress is compressive, which
leads to local shear and buckling of the layers (Fig. 4c and d). In
contrast to the case for the critical uniaxial tension stress in which
the fracture propagates almost straight across the sample without
significant pull-out (Fig. 1e), under a bending load delamination
occurs primarily along the microdefects (voids between some neigh-
bouring layers) (Fig. 1f). The experimental results thus suggest that
graphene oxide paper is a pliable macroscopic material composed of
stiff (in-plane) but compliant (out-of-plane) graphene oxide layers
that are relatively tightly interlocked.
In conclusion, our directed-flow assembly method has yielded a
structure in which individual compliant graphene oxide sheets are
interlocked/tiled together in a near-parallel fashion. The large inter-
action surfaces between these sheets, their corrugation at the atomic
scale, and their wrinkled morphology at the submicrometre scale
all allow for a highly effective load distribution across the entire
traditional carbon- and clay-based papers. An inexpensive starting
material such as graphite oxide should facilitate the fabrication of
large-area paper-like sheets for use in membranes with controlled
permeability, anisotropic ionic conductors, supercapacitors, and
materials for molecular storage, among many other uses. Graphene
oxide paper can also be infused or serve as a carrier substance for
producing hybrid materials containing polymers, ceramics and
metals. Additionally, the numerous chemical functionalities on the
Graphene oxide paper
Figure 3 | Comparison of tensile strength s and modulus E for a set of thin
paper-like materials. The data presented are from ref. 22 for bucky paper
and ref. 2 for vermiculite prepared by a similar filtration strategy. Flexible
graphite foil was prepared by rolling of expanded graphite6. Note that high
and low values are shown by the two colours. See also Supplementary
Radius of curvature (µm)
Figure 4 | The results of bending experiments for samples of graphene
the red line is a linear fit of experimental points. Error bars (6 s.d.) are
cut from membrane 5 (5.2-mm-thick) as it was compressed between two
one after, the sample buckled. c, An SEM image of a ,1-mm-thick curved
graphene oxide paper strip having a ,20-mm radius of curvature and
showing two major creases (dotted white lines) as a consequence of the
buckling. d, A high-resolution SEM image of an 11-mm-thick buckled strip.
e, Schematic drawings of the uniaxial in-plane load-to-fracture and a
bending-to-buckling test. The additional schematics are meant to represent
the interlamellar water molecules (blue) holding neighbouring graphene
oxide sheets together. These interactions are broken upon bending of the
stack or when in tension, leading to fracture with no pull-out.
NATURE|Vol 448|26 July 2007
surface of the layered graphene oxide sheets should readily lend Download full-text
themselves to further chemical functionalization. This latter strategy
can then be used to crosslink the adjacent layers and improve the
physical properties of the material. This combination of excellent
mechanical properties and chemical tunability should make
graphene oxide paper an exciting material.
Graphite oxide was synthesized from purified natural graphite (SP-1, Bay
Carbon) by the Hummers method29. Colloidal dispersions of individual gra-
phene oxide sheets in water at the concentration of 3mgml21were prepared17
with the aid of ultrasound (Fisher Scientific FS60 ultrasonic cleaning bath) in
20ml batches. Graphene oxide paper was made by filtration of the resulting
colloid through an Anodisc membrane filter (47mm in diameter, 0.2mm pore
of each graphene oxide paper sample was controlled by adjusting the volume of
the colloidal suspension. Samples of graphene oxide paper prepared in this
manner were cut by a razor blade into rectangular strips of approximately
5mm330mm for testing without further modification.
Light microscopy (Axioskop,Zeiss) andscanningelectron microscopy(Nova
NanoSEM, FEI) were used. The material density was measured using the
Archimedes method in water (33360 kit with the PB303-S DeltaRange
X-ray diffraction experiments were performed at room temperature using
specular reflection mode. Measurements were carried out in-house with a
Geigerflex (Rigaku) diffractometer (CuKa radiation, X-ray wavelength
l51.5406A˚, operating at 40keV, cathode current of 20mA) under normal
laboratory conditions; and at beamline X23B of the National Synchrotron
Light Source (Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York) with a four-circle
diffractometer operating at 10keV (l51.2398A˚, beam size 0.431.0mm2).
During the beamline measurements, the samples were kept under a slight over-
pressure of helium to reduce the background scattering from the ambient gas
and radiation damage. The inherent and instrumental broadenings of the dif-
fraction peak were higher for the in-house measurements.
The thermal stability of graphene oxide paper was characterized by thermo-
gravimetric analysis (TGA-SDT 2960, TA Instruments). All measurements were
conducted under dynamic nitrogen flow (industrial grade, flow rate
100mlmin21) over a temperature range of 35–800uC with a slow ramp rate
of 1uCmin21to prevent sample loss. Results are presented in Supplementary
Static mechanical uniaxial in-plane tensile tests were conducted with a
dynamic mechanical analyser (2980 DMA, TA Instruments). The samples were
gripped using film tension clamps with a clamp compliance of about
0.2mmN21. All tensile tests were conducted in controlled force mode with a
preload of 0.01N and a force ramp rate of 0.02Nmin21. The sample width was
measured using standard calipers (Mitutoyo). The length between the clamps
was measured by the DMA instrument, and the sample thickness was obtained
from SEM imaging of the fracture edge.
Received 2 January; accepted 12 June 2007.
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Supplementary Information is linked to the online version of the paper at
Acknowledgements We appreciate support from NASA through the University
Research, Engineering and Technology Institute (URETI) on Bio-inspired Materials
MRSEC programme of the National Science Foundation at the Materials Research
Center of Northwestern University, and the X23B beamline of the National
Synchrotron Light Source supported by the US Department of Energy. We thank
I. M. Daniel for the use of his mechanical testing instruments, and A. L. Ruoff for
commenting on an earlier version of this manuscript.
Author Information Reprints and permissions information is available at
www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to R.S.R.
NATURE|Vol 448|26 July 2007