The noncovalent functionalization of graphene by small molecule aromatic adsorbates, phenanthrenequinone (PQ), is investigated systematically by combining electrochemical characterization, high-resolution interfacial X-ray scattering, and ab initio density functional theory calculations. The findings in this study reveal that while PQ deposited on pristine graphene is unstable to electrochemical cycling, the prior introduction of defects and oxygen functionality (hydroxyl and epoxide groups) to the basal plane by exposure to atomic radicals (i.e., oxygen plasma) effectively stabilizes its noncovalent functionalization by PQ adsorption. The structure of adsorbed PQ molecules resembles the graphene layer stacking and is further stabilized by hydrogen bonding with terminal hydroxyl groups that form at defect sites within the graphene basal plane. The stabilized PQ/graphene interface demonstrates persistent redox activity associated with proton-coupled-electron-transfer reactions. The resultant PQ adsorbed structure is essentially independent of electrochemical potentials. These results highlight a facile approach to enhance functionalities of the otherwise chemically inert graphene using noncovalent interactions.
- X-ray reflectivity
- proton-coupled electron transfer