Covalent electron transfer chemistry of graphene with diazonium salts

Geraldine L.C. Paulus, Qing Hua Wang, Michael S. Strano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

258 Scopus citations


Graphene is an atomically thin, two-dimensional allotrope of carbon with exceptionally high carrier mobilities, thermal conductivity, and mechanical strength. From a chemist's perspective, graphene can be regarded as a large polycyclic aromatic molecule and as a surface without a bulk contribution. Consequently, chemistries typically performed on organic molecules and surfaces have been used as starting points for the chemical functionalization of graphene. The motivations for chemical modification of graphene include changing its doping level, opening an electronic band gap, charge storage, chemical and biological sensing, making new composite materials, and the scale-up of solution-processable graphene.In this Account, we focus on graphene functionalization via electron transfer chemistries, in particular via reactions with aryl diazonium salts. Because electron transfer chemistries depend on the Fermi energy of graphene and the density of states of the reagents, the resulting reaction rate depends on the number of graphene layers, edge states, defects, atomic structure, and the electrostatic environment. We limit our Account to focus on pristine graphene over graphene oxide, because free electrons in the latter are already bound to oxygen-containing functionalities and the resulting chemistries are dominated by localized reactivity and defects. We describe the reaction mechanism of diazonium functionalization of graphene and show that the reaction conditions determine the relative degrees of chemisorption and physisorption, which allows for controlled modulation of the electronic properties of graphene. Finally we discuss different applications for graphene modified by this chemistry, including as an additive in polymer matrices, as biosensors when coupled with cells and biomolecules, and as catalysts when combined with nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-170
Number of pages11
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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