Pushing down the Limit of NH3 Detection of Graphene-Based Chemiresistive Sensors through Functionalization by Thermally Activated Tetrazoles Dimerization

by S. Freddi, D. Perilli, L. Vaghi, M. Monti, A. Pagani, C. Di Valentin and L. Sangaletti
ACS Nano 2022, 16 (7), pp 10456–1046 View at Publisher
DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.2c01095


An easy and cost-effective method is presented to functionalize graphene through thermally activated dimerization of 2,5-diaryltetrazoles. Consistently with the experimental spectroscopic results, theoretical calculations demonstrate that during the thermal treatment a dimerization process to tetrazine is energetically more favorable than covalent grafting. Since both the functionalization method by thermal activation and the use of tetrazoles have never been considered before to prepare graphene-based chemiresistors, this represents a promising approach to develop graphene-related sensing platforms. Five different 2,5-diaryltetrazoles have been tested here for the effective functionalization of low-defect graphene layers on silicon nitride. Based on these layers, an array of sensors has been prepared for testing upon ammonia exposure. The tests on the sensing performances clearly show sensitivity to ammonia, extending the current range of ammonia detection with a graphene-based chemiresistor down to the sub-ppm range, as results from a benchmarking with data available in the literature. Furthermore, all sensors perform better than bare graphene. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations, carried out on a model of the best performing layer of the array, provided the theoretical framework to rationalize the sensing mechanism and disclose a dual role played by the tetrazine molecules, (i) acting as ammonia concentrators and (ii) mediating the electron transfer between ammonia and graphene.