Characterization of Liquid-Phase Exfoliated Two-Dimensional Nanomaterials Derived from Non-van der Waals Solids
Liquid-phase exfoliation (LPE) is a straightforward and scalable method of producing two-dimensional nanomaterials. The LPE process has typical been applied to layered van der Waals (vdW) solids, such as graphite and transition metal dichalcogenides, which have layers held together by weak van der Waals interactions. However, recent research has shown that solids with stronger bonds and non-layered structures can be converted to solution-stabilized nanosheets via LPE, some of which have shown to have interesting optical, magnetic, and photocatalytic properties. In this work, two classes of non-vdW solids – hexagonal metal diborides and boron carbide – are investigated for their morphological features, their chemical and crystallographic compositions, and their solvent preference for exfoliation. Spectroscopic and microscopic techniques are used to verify the composition and crystal structure of metal diboride nanosheets. Their application as mechanical fillers is demonstrated by incorporation into polymer nanocomposite films of polyvinyl alcohol and by successful integration into liquid photocurable 3D printing resins. Application of Hansen solubility theory to two metal diboride compositions enables extrapolation of their affinities for certain solvents and is also used to find solvent blends suitable for the nanosheets. Boron carbide nanosheets are examined for their size and thickness and their exfoliation planes are computationally analyzed and experimentally investigated using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. The resulting analyses indicate that the exfoliation of boron carbide leads to multiple observed exfoliation planes upon LPE processing. Overall, these studies provide insight into the production and applications of LPE-produced nanosheets derived from non-vdW solids and suggest their potential application as mechanical fillers in polymer nanocomposites.