In this project funded by the Macromolecular, Supramolecular, and Nanochemistry Program of the Division of Chemistry and the Solid-State and Materials Chemistry Program of the Division of Materials Research, Professor Alexander Sinitskii of University Nebraska at Lincoln is developing methods to synthesize large quantities of graphene nanoribbons. Graphene nanoribbons are single atom thick ribbons of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern, and the ribbons, individually, are a fraction of the diameter of a human hair in width. The electronic properties of graphene nanoribbons are very sensitive to their width and atomic composition along their edges, so it is important to design synthetic methods that can precisely control the atomic arrangement within the nanoribbons. Professor Sinitskii is developing methods to prepare graphene nanoribbons from specifically designed molecular precursors. The synthesis is performed in solution and can produce large quantities of graphene nanoribbons where their widths and atomic compositions of their edges can be specified. Graphene nanoribbons display interesting electronic and magnetic properties, and therefore have potential applications in electronic technologies, such as field-effect transistors, logic gates, and photovoltaic devices. To increase public awareness of the increasing role of carbon-based nanomaterials in everyday life and disseminate the results of this project, Professor Sinitskii is developing a series of educational video programs about recent discoveries in carbon-based nanoscience and nanotechnology. Professor Sinitskii is also developing new nanoscience courses to promote the education of graduate, undergraduate and high school students as well as high school teachers in the methods of materials chemistry and nanochemistry.
In this project, Professor Sinitskii is developing a bottom-up approach to the synthesis of atomically precise graphene nanoribbons based on the solution coupling of molecular precursors followed by oxidative cyclodehydrogenation. A systematic study of graphene nanoribbons with different widths and geometries will provide a fundamental understanding of the interplay between the structural parameters of graphene nanoribbons and their band structures. Professor Sinitskii is also studying how the band structures of graphene nanoribbons can be further tuned by nitrogen doping along the edges of the ribbon. The nanoribbons are being tested for applications in electronic devices, including field-effect transistors and gas sensors. The broader impacts of this project derive from the potential applications of graphene nanoribbons in carbon-based electronics and photovoltaics, and the planned educational and outreach activities.