Graphene-based sheets show promise for a variety of potential applications, and researchers in many scientific disciplines are interested in these materials. Although researchers have developed many ways of generating single atomic layer carbon sheets, chemical exfoliation of graphite powders to graphene oxide (GO) sheets followed by deoxygenation to form chemically modified graphene (CMG) offers a promising route for bulk scale production. The materials processing, which we broadly define as the physical and chemical means to tailor a material's chemical and microstructures, enables us to control the properties in bulk CMG materials. For example, by processing CMG sheets in different solvents, we can make thin films, blend CMG sheets with other materials, and modify them by chemical reactions. Materials processing methods also allow us to control the interactions between CMG sheets for the assembly of large scale two- or three-dimensional structures with desirable microstructures.This Account highlights a few problems associated with large scale production and processing of GO and CMG. First, we briefly discuss the potential fire risk of GO and CMG when alkaline salt byproducts are not completely removed. These impurities can catalyze carbon combustion. We introduce an improved purification procedure that effectively removes the byproducts and speeds up the production. Next, we address the challenges of imaging GO and CMG sheets on common substrates such as glass and plastics using standard microscopy methods. We have introduced a new technique fluorescence quenching microscopy (FQM), which allows us to observe graphene-based sheets with both high throughput and high contrast on arbitrary substrates and even in solution. Then we focus on how to prevent aggregation in CMG. Aggregation greatly reduces the material processability and accessible surface area, which degrades the material properties. We introduce two strategies to reduce aggregation by (i) reducing the lateral dimension of the sheets to nanometer range to enhance their colloidal stability and (ii) crumpling the sheets into paper ball-like, fractal-dimensional particles to make them aggregation- resistant in both solvents and solid state, even after mechanical compression.Solutions to these material processing challenges can pave the way for further research and development. We hope that the tools and strategies presented in this Account can facilitate the processing and property control of this promising material.
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