Patternable Solvent-Processed Thermoplastic Graphite Electrodes

Since their invention in the 1950s, composite carbon electrodes have been employed in a wide variety of applications, ranging from batteries and fuel cells to chemical sensors, because they are easy to make and pattern at millimeter scales. Despite their widespread use, traditional carbon composite electrodes have substandard electrochemistry relative to metallic and glassy carbon electrodes. As a result, there is a critical need for new composite carbon electrodes that are highly electrochemically active, have universal and easy fabrication into complex geometries, are highly conductive, and are low cost. Herein, a new solvent-based method is presented for making low-cost composite graphite electrodes containing a thermoplastic binder. The electrodes, which are termed thermoplastic electrodes (TPEs), are easy to fabricate and pattern, give excellent electrochemical performance, and have high conductivity (700 S m<sup>–1</sup>). The thermoplastic binder enables the electrodes to be hot embossed, molded, templated, and/or cut with a CO<sub>2</sub> laser into a variety of intricate patterns. Crucially, these electrodes show a marked improvement in peak current, peak separation, and resistance to charge transfer over traditional carbon electrodes. The impact of electrode composition, surface treatment (sanding, polishing, plasma treatment), and graphite source were found to significantly impact fabrication, patterning, conductivity, and electrochemical performance. Under optimized conditions, electrodes generated responses similar to more expensive and difficult to fabricate graphene and highly oriented pyrolytic graphite electrodes. The TPE electrode system reported here provides a new approach for fabricating high performance carbon electrodes with utility in applications ranging from sensing to batteries.