Nanoscale, 13 (2)

Chen-Xia Hu, Yuyoung Shin, Oliver Read and Cinzia Casiraghi

The extensive research on liquid-phase exfoliation (LPE) performed in the last 10 years has enabled a low cost and mass scalable approach to the successful production of a range of solution-processed 2-dimensional (2D) materials suitable for many applications, from composites to energy storage and printed electronics. However, direct LPE requires the use of specific solvents, which are typically toxic and expensive. Dispersant-assisted LPE allows us to overcome this problem by enabling production of solution processed 2D materials in a wider range of solvents, including water. This approach is based on the inclusion of an additive, typically an amphiphilic molecule, designed to interact with both the nanosheet and the solvent, enabling exfoliation and stabilization at the same time. This method has been extensively used for the LPE of graphene and has been discussed in many reviews, whilst little attention has been given to dispersant-assisted LPE of 2D materials beyond graphene. Considering the increasing number of 2D materials and their potential in many applications, from nanomedicine to energy storage and catalysis, this review focuses on the dispersant-assisted LPE of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) and less studied 2D materials. We first provide an introduction to the fundamentals of LPE and the type of dispersants that have been used for the production of graphene, we then discuss each class of 2D material, providing an overview on the concentration and properties of the nanosheets obtained. Finally, a perspective is given on some of the challenges that need to be addressed in this field of research.