TPU Scientists Study How to Adjust MXene Properties

Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with their colleagues from China have conducted an extensive analysis of the latest data in processing MXenes, new two-dimensional inorganic materials. The research findings are published in the article of Chemical Engineering Journal.

MXenes, a new family of nanomaterials, were discovered around 10 years ago. These are two-dimensional materials consisting of transition metals, carbon and/or nitrogen. MXene thickness is only a few atoms, due to which these materials become the best option to be used as efficient accelerators, chemical sensors.

Although, at the moment, the new material process is imperfect — impurities and defects can be contained in a processed MXene. It leads to the fact that the properties of experimentally processed materials are seriously distinguished from theoretically predicted ones. Moreover, these materials are distinguished by low chemical stability in the air, their mechanical properties also require improvement. At the moment, various strategies, for instance, post-processing by alloying, functional group modification, composite formation are used for the improvement of MXene properties.

“Our research team studied strategies, which will help better adjust the properties of these new materials and summarized the most highly promising.

There is one specific strategy, which, in our opinion, is the most essential. It is the formation of composite structures. When forming composites based on MXenes and polymers, chemical and mechanical stability improves, however, electrical conductance declines,”

Evgeniya Sheremet, Professor of the TPU Research School of High-Energy Physics, one of the article authors, says.

Raul David Rodriguez Contreras, Professor of the TPU Research School of Chemistry and Applied Biomedical Sciences, a member of the international research team, adds that TPU was the first to develop a method that allows processing polymer composites with various nanomaterials as fillings.

“Such composites are distinguished by their electrical conductance, chemical stability and mechanical strength. In this case, laser irradiation is used for processing. It is a strategy, we are adjusting to MXenes,” he explains.

As the scientists specify post-processing allows combining MXenes with other 2D materials, forming composites using new processes (laser irradiation, 3D printing), as well as discovering new MXene structures. Furthermore, post-processing is also aimed at solving more practical-oriented tasks. For instance, developing more efficient methods of material synthesis, methods for controlling surface quality, as well as using MXene in flexible electronics and wearable devices such as sensors, optical lenses, membranes for filtration and water purification).

The research work was conducted jointly with the partners from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The scientists intend to continue researching MXene properties.

“The next research stages are experiments to adjust electrical, mechanical, physical and chemical MXene properties and composites based on MXenes for using obtained materials in the energy industry, ecological applications, sensorics. The combination of MXenes with other two-dimensional materials for the formation of quantum heterostructures is a highly promising research area. For instance, MXenes can complement properties of other 2D materials modifying electrical conductance, plasmonic, electrochemical and catalytic properties,” the scientists say.