Abstract

Strategies for forming liquid dispersions of nanomaterials typically focus on retarding reaggregation, for example via surface modification, as opposed to promoting the thermodynamically driven dissolution common for molecule-sized species. Here we demonstrate the true dissolution of a wide range of important 2D nanomaterials by forming layered material salts that spontaneously dissolve in polar solvents yielding ionic solutions. The benign dissolution advantageously maintains the morphology of the starting material, is stable against reaggregation and can achieve solutions containing exclusively individualized monolayers. Importantly, the charge on the anionic nanosheet solutes is reversible, enables targeted deposition over large areas via electroplating and can initiate novel self-assembly upon drying. Our findings thus reveal a unique solution-like behaviour for 2D materials that enables their scalable production and controlled manipulation.

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Acknowledgements

This publication was funded, in part, by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). L.P. & O.D.P. thank the Royal Academy of Engineering for funding the development of the HS-AFM and the NSQI Low Noise Lab for hosting the HS-AFM. We thank Martial Duchamp for his valuable assistance with the ‘PICO’ TEM at the Ernst–Ruska Research Centre. The authors are grateful to Milo Shaffer & Paul McMillan for helpful and supportive discussions.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Physics & Astronomy, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Patrick L. Cullen
    • , Kathleen M. Cox
    • , Mohammed K. Bin Subhan
    • , David J. Buckley
    • , Neal T. Skipper
    •  & Christopher A. Howard
  2. Interface Analysis Centre, H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TL, UK

    • Loren Picco
    •  & Oliver D. Payton
  3. Department of Chemistry, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK

    • David J. Buckley
    •  & Thomas S. Miller
  4. Cambridge Graphene Centre, 9 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0FA, UK

    • Stephen A. Hodge
  5. Institute of Materials, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

    • Vasiliki Tileli

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Contributions

C.A.H. and P.L.C. conceived the project. P.L.C., V.T., M.K.B.S., K.M.C. and C.A.H. made the intercalated compounds and solutions. M.K.B.S., K.M.C., P.L.C. & C.A.H. carried out X-ray analysis. L.P., O.D.P., P.L.C., K.M.C. and C.A.H. performed and analysed the AFM measurements. L.P. wrote the automated HS-AFM platelet detection and step height measurement algorithms. V.T. performed S/TEM and contributed to the analysis of the results. C.A.H. carried out the electroplating and Raman experiment. C.A.H. directed the study and wrote the paper. All authors discussed and developed the science and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher A. Howard.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2650

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