In a recent study, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory discovered a first-of-its-kind copper and graphite combination.
The finding could have implications for improving the energy efficiency of lithium-ion batteries.
In the study, the scientists bombarded graphite in an ultra-high vacuum environment with ions to create surface defects.
Copper was then deposited on the ion-bombarded graphite while holding it at elevated temperature, at 600-800 K.
The synthetic route created multilayer copper islands that are completely covered by graphene layer(s).
The research is a continuation of a discovery from last year, when the researchers encapsulated dysprosium, a magnetic rare-earth metal, underneath a single layer of graphene.
The team says the finding is exciting because copper doesn’t seem to interact strongly or favorably with graphitic materials at all.
It challenges them to understand the reasons and mechanisms involved.
Copper is a highly conductive material but susceptible to oxidation.
Being able to successfully embed it just underneath the surface of graphite could protect the copper, and the result suggests a number of potential applications, including battery technology.
The researchers now are testing the possibilities of the method with other elements, including copper.
Study researcher Pat Thiel is an Ames Laboratory scientist and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University.
This work was supported primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. This work was also supported in part by a grant of computer time at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Centre (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
The research is published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.
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Journal reference: “Formation of Multilayer Cu Islands Embedded beneath the Surface of Graphite: Characterization and Fundamental Insights,” Ann Lii-Rosales, et al. Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2018).