Authors: Mohamed Oubaha,*a Andrew Kavanagh,b Arnaud Gorin,a Gabija Bickauskaite,c Robert Byrne,b Maria Farsari,c Richard Winfield,d Dermot Diamond,b Colette McDonagha and Robert Copperwhitea
Received 26th January 2012, Accepted 3rd April 2012
This work reports for the first time the development of enhanced-conductivity, graphene-doped photopatternable hybrid organic-inorganic ionogels and the effect of the subsequent materials condensation on the conductivity and mechanical stability of three-dimensional microstructures fabricated by multiphoton polymerisation (MPP). Ionogels were based on photocurable silicon/zirconium hybrid sol–gel materials and phosphonium (trihexyltetradecylphosphonium dicyanamide) [P6,6,6,14][DCA] ionic liquid (IL). To optimise the dispersion of graphene within the ionogel matrices, aqueous solutions of graphene were prepared, as opposed to the conventional graphene powder approach, and employed as catalysts of hydrolysis and condensation reactions occurring in the sol–gel process. Ionogels were prepared via a two step process by varying the hydrolysis degree from 25 to 50%, IL content between 0–50 w/w%, and the inorganic modifier (zirconate complex) concentration from 30 to 60 mol.% against the photocurable ormosil and they were characterised via Raman, Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy. MPP was performed on the hybrid ionogels, resulting in three-dimensional microstructures that were characterised using scanning electron microscopy. It is clearly demonstrated that the molecular formulation of the ionogels, including the concentration of graphene and the zirconate network modifier, plays a critical role in the conductivity of the ionogels and influences the resulting mechanical stability of the fabricated three-dimensional microstructures. This work aims to establish for the first time the relationship between the molecular design and condensation of materials in the physico-chemistry and dynamic of ionogels.