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Scientists Obtain Graphene Oxide Without Harming the Environment

Jan 16, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

Graphene oxide (GO), usually used as a precursor for the synthesis of grapheme, has many unique properties and promising applications. However, unlike grapheme, it contains a great number of oxygen-containing functional groups, and it’s strongly hydrophilic.

Usually GO is received by exfoliation of graphite oxide. The most commonly used Hummers method needs 1000 times more water than graphite has to be used, creates a huge amount of waste water containing mixed acids and heavy metal ions and needs a few to hundreds of hours for oxidation, which is time-consuming and causes pollution.

In a recent study published in Nature Communications, a research team led by Prof. REN Wencai at Institute of Metal Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMR, CAS) developed a method to obtain GO safe for the environment. The proposed approach is based on electrochemical oxidation and about 100 times faster than traditional methods.

The researchers proposed the following technique to obtain GO. The flexible graphite paper is subjected to electrochemical intercalation in concentrated sulfuric acid to form stage-I graphite intercalation compound paper which is then used as anode for electrochemical reaction in diluted sulfuric acid. After vacuum filtration and cleaning with water, the filter cake is exfoliated in water by sonication to form electrochemically synthesized GO dispersion.

Scientists compared the obtained GO with the GO obtained by the traditional method, and it turned out that the structures, compositions, optical and conductive properties are almost identical.

In this case, the whole obtaining process took no more than half an hour, and the direct oxidation phase took only a few seconds, which is about 100 times faster than traditional methods of oxidation. Thus the approach makes it possible to control the degree of oxidation of graphene, number of layers in formed material, and its transverse sizes by means of changing the concentration of sulfuric acid.

This study demonstrated a scalable, safe, ultrafast, and green method to synthesize clean GO sheets by water electrolytic oxidation of graphite. The application of this method can be very promising in the field of high-performance transparent conductive films, strong papers and ultra-light elastic aerogels.


(Editor: LIU Jia)


HUANG Chengyu

Institute of Metal Research

E-mail: cyhuang@imr.ac.cn

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