Production and processing of graphene and related materials

Claudia Backes, Amr M. Abdelkader, Concepción Alonso, Amandine Andrieux-Ledier, Raul Arenal, Jon Azpeitia, Nilanthy Balakrishnan, Luca Banszerus, Julien Barjon, Ruben Bartali, Sebastiano Bellani, Claire Berger, Reinhard Berger, M. M.Bernal Ortega, Carlo Bernard, Peter H. Beton, André Beyer, Alberto Bianco, Peter Bøggild, Francesco BonaccorsoGabriela Borin Barin, Cristina Botas, Rebeca A. Bueno, Daniel Carriazo, Andres Castellanos-Gomez, Meganne Christian, Artur Ciesielski, Tymoteusz Ciuk, Matthew T. Cole, Jonathan Coleman, Camilla Coletti, Luigi Crema, Huanyao Cun, Daniela Dasler, Domenico De Fazio, Noel Díez, Simon Drieschner, Georg S. Duesberg, Roman Fasel, Xinliang Feng, Alberto Fina, Stiven Forti, Costas Galiotis, Giovanni Garberoglio, Jorge M. García, Jose Antonio Garrido, Marco Gibertini, Armin Gölzhäuser, Julio Gómez, Thomas Greber, Frank Hauke, Adrian Hemmi, Irene Hernandez-Rodriguez, Andreas Hirsch, Stephen A. Hodge, Yves Huttel, Peter U. Jepsen, Ignacio Jimenez, Ute Kaiser, Tommi Kaplas, Ho Kwon Kim, Andras Kis, Konstantinos Papagelis, Kostas Kostarelos, Aleksandra Krajewska, Kangho Lee, Changfeng Li, Harri Lipsanen, Andrea Liscio, Martin R. Lohe, Annick Loiseau, Lucia Lombardi, Maria Francisca López, Oliver Martin, Cristina Martín, Lidia Martínez, Jose Angel Martin-Gago, José Ignacio Martínez, Nicola Marzari, Álvaro Mayoral, John McManus, Manuela Melucci, Javier Méndez, Cesar Merino, Pablo Merino, Andreas P. Meyer, Elisa Miniussi, Vaidotas Miseikis, Neeraj Mishra, Vittorio Morandi, Carmen Munuera, Roberto Muñoz, Hugo Nolan, Luca Ortolani, Anna K. Ott, Irene Palacio, Vincenzo Palermo, John Parthenios, Iwona Pasternak, Amalia Patane, Maurizio Prato, Henri Prevost, Vladimir Prudkovskiy, Nicola Pugno, Teófilo Rojo, Antonio Rossi, Pascal Ruffieux, Paolo Samorì, Léonard Schué, Eki Setijadi, Thomas Seyller, Giorgio Speranza, Christoph Stampfer, Ingrid Stenger, Wlodek Strupinski, Yuri Svirko, Simone Taioli, Kenneth B.K. Teo, Matteo Testi, Flavia Tomarchio, Mauro Tortello, Emanuele Treossi, Andrey Turchanin, Ester Vazquez, Elvira Villaro, Patrick R. Whelan, Zhenyuan Xia, Rositza Yakimova, Sheng Yang, G. Reza Yazdi, Chanyoung Yim, Duhee Yoon, Xianghui Zhang, Xiaodong Zhuang, Luigi Colombo, Andrea C. Ferrari, Mar Garcia-Hernandez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

345 Citations (Scopus)
257 Downloads (Pure)


We present an overview of the main techniques for production and processing of graphene and related materials (GRMs), as well as the key characterization procedures. We adopt a 'hands-on' approach, providing practical details and procedures as derived from literature as well as from the authors' experience, in order to enable the reader to reproduce the results. Section I is devoted to 'bottom up' approaches, whereby individual constituents are pieced together into more complex structures. We consider graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) produced either by solution processing or by on-surface synthesis in ultra high vacuum (UHV), as well carbon nanomembranes (CNM). Production of a variety of GNRs with tailored band gaps and edge shapes is now possible. CNMs can be tuned in terms of porosity, crystallinity and electronic behaviour. Section II covers 'top down' techniques. These rely on breaking down of a layered precursor, in the graphene case usually natural crystals like graphite or artificially synthesized materials, such as highly oriented pyrolythic graphite, monolayers or few layers (FL) flakes. The main focus of this section is on various exfoliation techniques in a liquid media, either intercalation or liquid phase exfoliation (LPE). The choice of precursor, exfoliation method, medium as well as the control of parameters such as time or temperature are crucial. A definite choice of parameters and conditions yields a particular material with specific properties that makes it more suitable for a targeted application. We cover protocols for the graphitic precursors to graphene oxide (GO). This is an important material for a range of applications in biomedicine, energy storage, nanocomposites, etc. Hummers' and modified Hummers' methods are used to make GO that subsequently can be reduced to obtain reduced graphene oxide (RGO) with a variety of strategies. GO flakes are also employed to prepare three-dimensional (3d) low density structures, such as sponges, foams, hydro- or aerogels. The assembly of flakes into 3d structures can provide improved mechanical properties. Aerogels with a highly open structure, with interconnected hierarchical pores, can enhance the accessibility to the whole surface area, as relevant for a number of applications, such as energy storage. The main recipes to yield graphite intercalation compounds (GICs) are also discussed. GICs are suitable precursors for covalent functionalization of graphene, but can also be used for the synthesis of uncharged graphene in solution. Degradation of the molecules intercalated in GICs can be triggered by high temperature treatment or microwave irradiation, creating a gas pressure surge in graphite and exfoliation. Electrochemical exfoliation by applying a voltage in an electrolyte to a graphite electrode can be tuned by varying precursors, electrolytes and potential. Graphite electrodes can be either negatively or positively intercalated to obtain GICs that are subsequently exfoliated. We also discuss the materials that can be amenable to exfoliation, by employing a theoretical data-mining approach. The exfoliation of LMs usually results in a heterogeneous dispersion of flakes with different lateral size and thickness. This is a critical bottleneck for applications, and hinders the full exploitation of GRMs produced by solution processing. The establishment of procedures to control the morphological properties of exfoliated GRMs, which also need to be industrially scalable, is one of the key needs. Section III deals with the processing of flakes. (Ultra)centrifugation techniques have thus far been the most investigated to sort GRMs following ultrasonication, shear mixing, ball milling, microfluidization, and wet-jet milling. It allows sorting by size and thickness. Inks formulated from GRM dispersions can be printed using a number of processes, from inkjet to screen printing. Each technique has specific rheological requirements, as well as geometrical constraints. The solvent choice is critical, not only for the GRM stability, but also in terms of optimizing printing on different substrates, such as glass, Si, plastic, paper, etc, all with different surface energies. Chemical modifications of such substrates is also a key step. Sections IV-VII are devoted to the growth of GRMs on various substrates and their processing after growth to place them on the surface of choice for specific applications. The substrate for graphene growth is a key determinant of the nature and quality of the resultant film. The lattice mismatch between graphene and substrate influences the resulting crystallinity. Growth on insulators, such as SiO2, typically results in films with small crystallites, whereas growth on the close-packed surfaces of metals yields highly crystalline films. Section IV outlines the growth of graphene on SiC substrates. This satisfies the requirements for electronic applications, with well-defined graphene-substrate interface, low trapped impurities and no need for transfer. It also allows graphene structures and devices to be measured directly on the growth substrate. The flatness of the substrate results in graphene with minimal strain and ripples on large areas, allowing spectroscopies and surface science to be performed. We also discuss the surface engineering by intercalation of the resulting graphene, its integration with Si-wafers and the production of nanostructures with the desired shape, with no need for patterning. Section V deals with chemical vapour deposition (CVD) onto various transition metals and on insulators. Growth on Ni results in graphitized polycrystalline films. While the thickness of these films can be optimized by controlling the deposition parameters, such as the type of hydrocarbon precursor and temperature, it is difficult to attain single layer graphene (SLG) across large areas, owing to the simultaneous nucleation/growth and solution/precipitation mechanisms. The differing characteristics of polycrystalline Ni films facilitate the growth of graphitic layers at different rates, resulting in regions with differing numbers of graphitic layers. High-quality films can be grown on Cu. Cu is available in a variety of shapes and forms, such as foils, bulks, foams, thin films on other materials and powders, making it attractive for industrial production of large area graphene films. The push to use CVD graphene in applications has also triggered a research line for the direct growth on insulators. The quality of the resulting films is lower than possible to date on metals, but enough, in terms of transmittance and resistivity, for many applications as described in section V. Transfer technologies are the focus of section VI. CVD synthesis of graphene on metals and bottom up molecular approaches require SLG to be transferred to the final target substrates. To have technological impact, the advances in production of high-quality large-area CVD graphene must be commensurate with those on transfer and placement on the final substrates. This is a prerequisite for most applications, such as touch panels, anticorrosion coatings, transparent electrodes and gas sensors etc. New strategies have improved the transferred graphene quality, making CVD graphene a feasible option for CMOS foundries. Methods based on complete etching of the metal substrate in suitable etchants, typically iron chloride, ammonium persulfate, or hydrogen chloride although reliable, are time- and resourceconsuming, with damage to graphene and production of metal and etchant residues. Electrochemical delamination in a low-concentration aqueous solution is an alternative. In this case metallic substrates can be reused. Dry transfer is less detrimental for the SLG quality, enabling a deterministic transfer. There is a large range of layered materials (LMs) beyond graphite. Only few of them have been already exfoliated and fully characterized. Section VII deals with the growth of some of these materials. Amongst them, h-BN, transition metal tri- and di-chalcogenides are of paramount importance. The growth of h-BN is at present considered essential for the development of graphene in (opto) electronic applications, as h-BN is ideal as capping layer or substrate. The interesting optical and electronic properties of TMDs also require the development of scalable methods for their production. Large scale growth using chemical/physical vapour deposition or thermal assisted conversion has been thus far limited to a small set, such as h-BN or some TMDs. Heterostructures could also be directly grown.

Original languageEnglish
Article number022001
Number of pages282
Journal2D Materials
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020
MoE publication typeA2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review


  • Characterization of layered materials
  • Functionalization of layered materials
  • Growth of layered materials
  • Inks of layered materials
  • Processing of layered materials
  • Synthesis of graphene and related materials


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