Researchers from the University of Arkansas have tackled the issue of graphene oxide's flammability; The team explains that scaling up the production of graphene-based materials is often problematic and dangerous due to GO's tendency to become explosive once airborne, so solving this problem may prove important.
In their work, the team established a relatively simple method to cross-link GO with Al3+ cations, in one step, into a freestanding flexible membrane. This membrane resists in-air burning on an open flame, at which non-cross-linked GO was burnt out within ∼5 s. With the improved thermal and water stabilities, the cross-linked GO film can help advance high-temperature fuel cells, electronic packaging, etc.
The team stated that using this method, graphene is less likely to "cause trouble" in the future of graphene-based materials production, its disposal and its environmental impact. by converting graphene polymer to graphene-oxide flakes in a liquid phase water solution, it's possible to do the cross linking in the water. “We can harvest the materials, not as a chunk, but cross-linked into a free-standing membrane, foil type so that the material has much stronger mechanical properties than before when it was non-cross linked. This essentially opens the door widely to all applications".
The researchers are eyeing commercialization. The team has a provisional patent on the discovery, and is also talking with National Labs about taking on commercialization applications of this product. One potential application is to use graphene, developed using this non-flammable technique, to create an energy-efficient window coating that would bring down heating and cooling costs.