Novel Graphene Wool Gas Adsorbent for Volatile and Semivolatile Organic Compounds


Volatile and semivolatile organic compounds in ambient air and occupational settings are of great concern due to their associated adverse human health and environmental impacts. Novel graphene wool samplers have been developed and tested to overcome limitations of commercially available sorbents that can only be used once and typically require solvent extraction. Graphene wool (GW) was synthesized by non-catalytic chemical vapor deposition with optimized conditions, resulting in a novel fibrous graphene wool that is very easy to manage and less rigid than other forms of graphene, lending itself to a wide range of potential applications. Here, the air pollutant sampling capabilities of the GW were of interest. The optimal packing weight of GW inside a glass tube (length 178 mm, i.d. 4 mm, o.d. 6 mm) was investigated by the adsorption of vaporized alkane standards on the GW, using a condensation aerosol generator in a temperature-controlled chamber and subsequent detection using a flame ionization detector. The optimized GW packing density was found to be 0.19 mg mm–3 at a flow rate of 500 mL min–1, which provided a gas collection efficiency of >90% for octane, decane, and hexadecane. The humidity uptake of the sampler is less than 1% (m/m) for ambient humidities <70%. Breakthrough studies showed the favorable adsorption of polar molecules, which is attributed to the defective nature of the graphene and the inhomogeneous coating of the graphene layers on the quartz wool, suggesting that the polar versus non-polar uptake potential of the GW can be tuned by varying the graphene layering on the quartz wool substrate during synthesis. Oxidized domains at the irregular edges of the graphene layers, due to a broken, non-pristine sp2 carbon network, allow for adsorption of polar molecules. The GW was applied and used in a combustion sampling campaign where the samplers proved to be comparable to frequently used polydimethylsiloxane sorbents in terms of sampling and thermal desorption of non-polar semivolatile organic compounds. The total alkane concentrations detected after thermal desorption of GW and PDMS samplers were found to be 17.96 ± 13.27 and 18.30 ± 16.42 μg m–3, respectively; thus, the difference in the alkane sampling concentration between the two sorbent systems was negligible. GW provides a new, exciting possibility for the monitoring of organic air pollutants with numerous advantages, including high sampling efficiencies, simple and cost-effective synthesis of the thermally stable GW, solvent-free and environmentally friendly analysis, and, importantly, the reusability of samplers.

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