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Laser-induced graphene gets tough, with help

 Rice University researchers have combined laser-induced graphene with a variety of materials to make robust composites for a variety of applications. Credit: Tour Group / Rice University
<p> Laser-induced graphene (LIG), and flame foam of the atom-thick carbon, has many interesting properties on its own but gains new power as part of a composite.<br />
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The labs of Rice University chemist James Tour and Christopher Arnusch, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, introduced a batch of LIG composites in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano the material's capabilities into more robust packages

By infusing LIG with plastic, rubber, cement, wax or other materials, the labs made composites with a wide range of possible applications. These new composites could be used in wearable electronics, in heat therapy, in water treatment, in anti-icing and deicing work, in the creation of antimicrobial surfaces and even in making resistive random-access memory devices

The Tour lab first made LIG in 201

4 when it used a commercial laser to burn the surface of a thin sheet of common plastic, polyimide. The laser's heat turned and sliver the material into flakes of interconnected graphene.

Since then, Rice Lab and others have expanded their investigation of LIG, even dropping the plastic to make it with wood and food. Last year, the Rice researchers created graphene foam for sculpting 3-D objects.

Laser-induced graphene, produced through a method developed at Rice University, can be combined with other materials for composites. The resulting materials show promise for electronic, anti-icing and heating applications. Credit: Tour Group / Rice University

"The LIG is a great material, but it's not mechanically robust," said Tour, who co-authored an overview of laser-induced graphene developments in the Journal of Chemical Research journal last year. "You can bend it and flex it, but you can not rub your hand over it. It will shear off." If you do what's called a Scotch tape test on it, lots of it gets removed. and composite structure, it is really toughened up. "

To make the composites, the researchers have cast or pressed a thin layer of the second material over the LIG attached to the polyimide. When the liquid hardened, they pulled the polyimide away from the back for reuse, leaving the embedded, connected graphene flakes behind.

Soft composites can be used for active electronics in flexible clothing, while the harder composites make excellent superhydrophobic water-avoiding) materials. When a voltage is applied, the 20-micron-thick layer of LIG kills bacteria on the surface, making toughened versions of the material suitable for antibacterial applications

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