Graphene sheets doped with nitrogen were produced by the reduction-expansion (RES) method utilizing graphite oxide (GO) and urea as precursor materials. The simultaneous graphene generation and nitrogen insertion reactions are based on the fact that urea decomposes upon heating to release reducing gases. The volatile byproducts perform two primary functions: (i) promoting the reduction of the GO and (ii) providing the nitrogen to be inserted in situ
as the graphene structure is created. Samples with diverse urea/GO mass ratios were treated at 800 °C in inert atmosphere to generate graphene with diverse microstructural characteristics and levels of nitrogen doping. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were used to study the microstructural features of the products. The effects of doping on the samples structure and surface area were studied by X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman Spectroscopy, and Brunauer Emmet Teller (BET). The GO and urea decomposition-reduction process as well as nitrogen-doped graphene stability were studied by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) coupled with mass spectroscopy (MS) analysis of the evolved gases. Results show that the proposed method offers a high level of control over the amount of nitrogen inserted in the graphene and may be used alternatively to control its surface area. To demonstrate the practical relevance of these findings, as-produced samples were used as electrodes in supercapacitor and battery devices and compared with conventional, thermally exfoliated graphene.
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