Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Wetting transparency of graphene


We report that graphene coatings do not significantly disrupt the intrinsic wetting behaviour of surfaces for which surface–water interactions are dominated by van der Waals forces. Our contact angle measurements indicate that a graphene monolayer is wetting-transparent to copper, gold or silicon, but not glass, for which the wettability is dominated by short-range chemical bonding. With increasing number of graphene layers, the contact angle of water on copper gradually transitions towards the bulk graphite value, which is reached for ~6 graphene layers. Molecular dynamics simulations and theoretical predictions confirm our measurements and indicate that graphene’s wetting transparency is related to its extreme thinness. We also show a 30–40% increase in condensation heat transfer on copper, as a result of the ability of the graphene coating to suppress copper oxidation without disrupting the intrinsic wettability of the surface. Such an ability to independently tune the properties of surfaces without disrupting their wetting response could have important implications in the design of conducting, conformal and impermeable surface coatings.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Graphene film deposition.
Figure 2: Wetting transparency of graphene.
Figure 3: Molecular dynamics simulation of water contact angle on the graphene/Cu system.
Figure 4: Mechanism of wetting transparency.
Figure 5: Condensation heat-transfer enhancement.


  1. Geim, A. K. & Novoselov, K. S. The rise of graphene. Nature Mater. 6, 183–191 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Lee, C., Wei, X., Kysar, J. W. & Hone, J. Measurement of the elastic properties and intrinsic strength of monolayer graphene. Science 321, 385–388 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Nair, R. R. et al. Fine structure constant defines visual transparency of graphene. Science 320, 1308 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Bonaccorso, F., Sun, Z., Hasan, T. & Ferrari, A. C. Graphene photonics and optoelectronics. Nature Photon. 4, 611–620 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Roddaro, S., Pingue, P., Piazza, V., Pellegrini, V. & Beltram, F. The optical visibility of graphene: Interference colors of ultrathin graphite on SiO2 . Nano Lett. 7, 2707–2710 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Chen, Z. P. et al. Three-dimensional flexible and conductive interconnected graphene networks grown by chemical vapour deposition. Nature Mater. 10, 424–428 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Li, X. et al. Highly conducting graphene sheets and Langmuir–Blodgett films. Nature Nanotech. 3, 538–542 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Li, X. S. et al. Large-area synthesis of high quality and uniform graphene films on Cu foils. Science 324, 1312–1314 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Li, X. et al. Transfer of large-area graphene films for high-performance transparent conductive electrodes. Nano Lett. 9, 4359–4363 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Bae, S. et al. Roll-to-roll production of 30-inch graphene films for transparent electrodes. Nature Nanotech. 5, 574–578 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Eda, G., Fanchini, G. & Chhowalla, M. Large-area ultrathin films of reduced graphene oxide as a transparent and flexible electronic material. Nature Nanotech. 3, 270–274 (2008).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Yavari, F. et al. Tunable bandgap in graphene by the controlled adsorption of water molecules. Small 6, 2535–2538 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Rafiee, J., Rafiee, M. A., Yu, Z. Z. & Koratkar, N. Superhydrophobic to superhydrophilic wetting control in graphene films. Adv. Mater. 22, 2151–2154 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Dhiman, P. et al. Harvesting energy from water flow over graphene. Nano Lett. 11, 3123–3127 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Sansotera, M. et al. Preparation and characterization of superhydrophobic conductive fluorinated carbon blacks. Carbon 48, 4382–4390 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Han, J. T., Kim, S. Y., Woo, J. S. & Lee, G. W. Transparent, conductive, and superhydrophobic films from stabilized carbon nanotube/silane sol mixture solution. Adv. Mater. 20, 3724–3727 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Zou, J. et al. Preparation of a superhydrophobic and conductive nanocomposite coating from a carbon-nanotube-conjugated block copolymer dispersion. Adv. Mater. 20, 3337–3341 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Darmanin, T. & Guittard, F. Molecular design of conductive polymers to modulate super-oleophobic properties. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 7928–7933 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Srivastava, A. et al. Novel liquid precursor-based facile synthesis of large-area continuous, single, and few-layer graphene films. Chem. Mater. 22, 3457–3461 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Ferrari, A. C. et al. Raman spectrum of graphene and graphene layers. Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 187401 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Werder, T., Walther, J. H., Jaffe, R. L., Halicioglu, T. & Koumoutsakos, P. On the water–carbon interaction for use in molecular dynamics simulations of graphite and carbon nanotubes. J. Phys. Chem. B 107, 1345–1352 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Zhu, S. B., Fillingim, T. G. & Robinson, G. W. Flexible simple point-charge water in a self-supporting thin film. J. Phys. Chem. 95, 1002–1006 (1991).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Wang, J. Y., Betelu, S. & Law, B. M. Line tension approaching a first-order wetting transition: Experimental results from contact angle measurements. Phys. Rev. E 63, 031601 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Israelachvili, J. N. Intermolecular and Surface Forces, 2nd edn: With Applications to Colloidal and Biological Systems (Academic, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Seemann, R., Herminghaus, S. & Jacobs, K. Dewetting patterns and molecular forces: A reconciliation. Phys. Rev. Lett. 86, 5534–5537 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. De Gennes, P. G. Wetting: Statics and dynamics. Rev. Mod. Phys. 57, 827–863 (1985).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Seemann, R., Herminghaus, S. & Jacobs, K. Gaining control of pattern formation of dewetting liquid films. J. Phys. Condens. Matter. 13, 4925–4938 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Rajter, R. F., French, R. H., Ching, W. Y., Carter, W. C. & Chiang, Y. M. Calculating van der Waals–London dispersion spectra and Hamaker coefficients of carbon nanotubes in water from ab initio optical properties. J. Appl. Phys. 101, 054303 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Chen, S. et al. Oxidation resistance of graphene-coated Cu and Cu/Ni alloy. ACS Nano 5, 1321–1327 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. Chen, X. et al. Nanograssed micropyramidal architectures for continuous dropwise condensation. Adv. Funct. Mater. 24, 4617–4623 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


N.A.K., P.M.A. and Y.S. thank the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC) for funding support. N.A.K. also acknowledges funding from the USA National Science Foundation (Awards CMMI-1130215 and CBET-0853785). P.M.A. also acknowledges support from the ONR graphene MURI program. We thank Y. Peles at RPI for providing us access to the condensation heat-transfer test facility in his Lab.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



N.A.K. and P.M.A. designed and directed the research. J.R. performed the wetting measurements and optical microscopy. H.G. fabricated the graphene samples on the various substrates. F.Y. performed the Raman characterization of the samples. A.V.T. and N.A.K. performed the condensation heat-transfer measurements. X.M. and Y.S. performed the MD simulations. X.M., Y.S. and N.A.K. carried out the continuum modelling. N.A.K., P.M.A. and Y.S. wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Pulickel M. Ajayan or Nikhil A. Koratkar.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 520 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rafiee, J., Mi, X., Gullapalli, H. et al. Wetting transparency of graphene. Nature Mater 11, 217–222 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing