Nonlinear fracture toughness measurement and crack propagation resistance of functionalized graphene multilayers

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Science Advances  06 Apr 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 4, eaao7202
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao7202

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Despite promising applications of two-dimensional (2D) materials, one major concern is their propensity to fail in a brittle manner, which results in a low fracture toughness causing reliability issues in practical applications. We show that this limitation can be overcome by using functionalized graphene multilayers with fracture toughness (J integral) as high as ~39 J/m2, measured via a microelectromechanical systems–based in situ transmission electron microscopy technique coupled with nonlinear finite element fracture analysis. The measured fracture toughness of functionalized graphene multilayers is more than two times higher than graphene (~16 J/m2). A linear fracture analysis, similar to that previously applied to other 2D materials, was also conducted and found to be inaccurate due to the nonlinear nature of the stress-strain response of functionalized graphene multilayers. A crack arresting mechanism of functionalized graphene multilayers was experimentally observed and identified as the main contributing factor for the higher fracture toughness as compared to graphene. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that the interactions among functionalized atoms in constituent layers and distinct fracture pathways in individual layers, due to a random distribution of functionalized carbon atoms in multilayers, restrict the growth of a preexisting crack. The results inspire potential strategies for overcoming the relatively low fracture toughness of 2D materials through chemical functionalization.

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