The Role of Water in Mediating Interfacial Adhesion and Shear Strength in Graphene Oxide

Rafael A. Soler-Crespo, Wei Gao, Lily Mao, Hoang T. Nguyen, Michael R. Roenbeck, Jeffrey T. Paci, Jiaxing Huang*, Sonbinh T. Nguyen, Horacio D. Espinosa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Graphene oxide (GO), whose highly tunable surface chemistry enables the formation of strong interfacial hydrogen-bond networks, has garnered increasing interest in the design of devices that operate in the presence of water. For instance, previous studies have suggested that controlling GO's surface chemistry leads to enhancements in interfacial shear strength, allowing engineers to manage deformation pathways and control failure mechanisms. However, these previous reports have not explored the role of ambient humidity and only offer extensive chemical modifications to GO's surface as the main pathway to control GO's interfacial properties. Herein, through atomic force microscopy experiments on GO-GO interfaces, the adhesion energy and interfacial shear strength of GO were measured as a function of ambient humidity. Experimental evidence shows that adhesion energy and interfacial shear strength can be improved by a factor of 2-3 when GO is exposed to moderate (∼30% water weight) water content. Furthermore, complementary molecular dynamics simulations uncovered the mechanisms by which these nanomaterial interfaces achieve their properties. They reveal that the strengthening mechanism arises from the formation of strongly interacting hydrogen-bond networks, driven by the chemistry of the GO basal plane and intercalated water molecules between two GO surfaces. In summary, the methodology and findings here reported provide pathways to simultaneously optimize GO's interfacial and in-plane mechanical properties, by tailoring the chemistry of GO and accounting for water content, in engineering applications such as sensors, filtration membranes, wearable electronics, and structural materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6089-6099
Number of pages11
JournalACS nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 26 2018


  • adhesion energy
  • graphene oxide
  • interfacial shear strength
  • surface roughness
  • water content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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