Researchers from the Functional Materials research unit at the National Research Council of Italy in Bologna discovered an effective way of producing graphene-polymer composites by using an already-familiar industrial dye as a replacement to the traditional harmful solvents.

Different solvents and soaps that are nowadays used for graphene production might be appropriate for basic research, but are problematic for large-scale industrial applications. The tested industrial dye, already in wide use in polymer manufacturing, removes some of these problems by being non-toxic and eliminating the need to extract it at the end of the process.

In this study, the team experimented with how the molecule indanthrone blue sulphonic acid sodium salt (IBS) interacts with graphite. Indanthrone derivatives are a class of pigments that have been used as cotton dyes, paints and enamels over the centuries. More recently, IBS has also been used in liquid-crystal preparation, and it has been suggested that this chemical may have potential in self-assembling electroluminescent organic semiconductors.

The researchers suggest that the IBS-graphene production and processing approach may have applications in polymer composites for enhancing electrical conductivity, with potential applications such as organic electronics.

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