Low Temperature Electrical Transport Measurements of Graphene Aerogels

Summer 2016

Kevin Nuckolls : Physics, Applied Mathematics

Mentor: Alex Zettl

Carbon-based nanomaterials have been the focus of a myriad of research endeavors within the field of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics for the past few decades. Certain allotropes of carbon, such as single-layer graphene, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), and spherical carbon fullerene, have been thoroughly explored in their electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties. These forms of carbon have exhibited extremely interesting physical properties, such as high carrier mobility, high tensile and elastic strength, and superconductivity. However, as recently as 2010, a new form of carbon has been discovered known as graphene aerogel, composed of the disordered arrangement of nanoscale domains of graphene.

I am interested in studying the electronic behavior and transport characteristics of graphene aerogels of various pore-size distributions, both in its unaltered form and after intercalating the aerogels with alkali metals. The properties I will study this summer are both standard transport measurements and extrapolations from methods used to discover novel physics properties in other inhomogeneous, carbon-based materials, such as SWNT “mats”. These electronic properties include the exploration of resistance as a function of temperature, the frequency-dependent conductivity, the Hall coefficient, and the magnetoresistance of these samples. In intercalating these aerogels with alkali metals, we alter the carrier concentration and lattice parameters and, thus, expand possible observable physics phenomena, as suggested by previous research done in the intercalation of graphite, which has been shown to exhibit superconductivity after such intercalation. There are many applications for these graphene aerogels, including their usage in high sensitivity chemical gas sensors due to their extensive surface area and fragile electronic structure. However, the scope of these applications could be vastly widened with the knowledge of their transport properties I will be pursuing this summer.

I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity, as a 2016 SURF L&S fellow, to pursue my research in the Zettl group to the fullest extent this summer. Thanks to the generous support of the SURF/L&S program and the Pergo Foundation, I will be able to immerse myself in my work and contribute more wholly to my lab. With this fellowship, I will gain many experiences and skills that are essential in preparing me for a career in Physics research, and for this I thank my sponsors.