As the cylindrical sp2-bonded carbon allotrope, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been widely used to reinforce bulk materials such as polymers, ceramics, and metals. However, both the concept demonstration and the fundamental understanding on how 1D CNTs reinforce atomically thin 2D layered materials, such as graphene, are still absent. Here, we demonstrate the successful synthesis of CNT-toughened graphene by simply annealing functionalized CNTs on Cu foils without needing to introduce extraneous carbon sources. The CNTs act as reinforcing bar (rebar), toughening the graphene through both π–π stacking domains and covalent bonding where the CNTs partially unzip and form a seamless 2D conjoined hybrid as revealed by aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy analysis. This is termed rebar graphene. Rebar graphene can be free-standing on water and transferred onto target substrates without needing a polymer-coating due to the rebar effects of the CNTs. The utility of rebar graphene sheets as flexible all-carbon transparent electrodes is demonstrated. The in-plane marriage of 1D nanotubes and 2D layered materials might herald an electrical and mechanical union that extends beyond carbon chemistry.
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