Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Yun Hang Hu


Graphene, which is a two-dimensional carbon material, exhibits unique properties that promise its potential applications in photovoltaic devices. Dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) is a representative of the third generation photovoltaic devices. Therefore, it is important to synthesize graphene with special structures, which possess excellent properties for dye-sensitized solar cells.

This dissertation research was focused on (1) the effect of oxygen content on the structure of graphite oxide, (2) the stability of graphene oxide solution, (3) the application of graphene precipitate from graphene oxide solution as counter electrode for DSSCs, (4) the development of a novel synthesis method for the three-dimensional graphene with honeycomb-like structure, and (5) the exploration of honeycomb structured graphene (HSG) as counter electrodes for DSSCs.

Graphite oxide is a crucial precursor to synthesize graphene sheets via chemical exfoliation method. The relationship between the oxygen content and the structures of graphite oxides was still not explored. In this research, the oxygen content of graphite oxide is tuned by changing the oxidation time and the effect of oxygen content on the structure of graphite oxide was evaluated. It has been found that the saturated ratio of oxygen to carbon is 0.47. The types of functional groups in graphite oxides, which are epoxy, hydroxyl, and carboxylgroups, are independent of oxygen content. However, the interplanar space and BET surface area of graphite oxide linearly increases with increasing O/C ratio.

Graphene oxide (GO) can easily dissolve in water to form a stable homogeneous solution, which can be used to fabricate graphene films and graphene based composites. This work is the first research to evaluate the stability of graphene oxide solution. It has been found that the introduction of strong electrolytes (HCl, LiOH, LiCl) into GO solution can cause GO precipitation. This indicates that the electrostatic repulsion plays a critical role in stabilizing aqueous GO solution. Furthermore, the HCl-induced GO precipitation is a feasible approach to deposit GO sheets on a substrate as a Pt-free counter electrode for a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), which exhibited 1.65% of power conversion efficiency.

To explore broad and practical applications, large-scale synthesis with controllable integration of individual graphene sheets is essential. A novel strategy for the synthesis of graphene sheets with three-dimensional (3D) Honeycomb-like structure has been invented in this project based on a simple and novel chemical reaction (Li2O and CO to graphene and Li2CO3). The simultaneous formation of Li2CO3 with graphene not only can isolate graphene sheets from each other to prevent graphite formation during the process, but also determine the locally curved shape of graphene sheets. After removing Li2CO3, 3D graphene sheets with a honeycomb-like structure were obtained. This would be the first approach to synthesize 3D graphene sheets with a controllable shape. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the 3D Honeycomb-Structured Graphene (HSG) possesses excellent electrical conductivity and high catalytic activity. As a result, DSSCs with HSG counter electrodes exhibit energy conversion efficiency as high as 7.8%, which is comparable to that of an expensive noble Pt electrode.