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Engineering the Mechanical Properties of Monolayer Graphene Oxide at the Atomic Level

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journal contribution
posted on 30.06.2016, 00:00 authored by Rafael A. Soler-Crespo, Wei Gao, Penghao Xiao, Xiaoding Wei, Jeffrey T. Paci, Graeme Henkelman, Horacio D. Espinosa
The mechanical properties of graphene oxide (GO) are of great importance for applications in materials engineering. Previous mechanochemical studies of GO typically focused on the influence of the degree of oxidation on the mechanical behavior. In this study, using density functional-based tight binding simulations, validated using density functional theory simulations, we reveal that the deformation and failure of GO are strongly dependent on the relative concentrations of epoxide (−O−) and hydroxyl (−OH) functional groups. Hydroxyl groups cause GO to behave as a brittle material; by contrast, epoxide groups enhance material ductility through a mechanically driven epoxide-to-ether functional group transformation. Moreover, with increasing epoxide group concentration, the strain to failure and toughness of GO significantly increases without sacrificing material strength and stiffness. These findings demonstrate that GO should be treated as a versatile, tunable material that may be engineered by controlling chemical composition, rather than as a single, archetypical material.