A less conventional way to make the catalyst graphitic oxide—which is used to make graphene and lots of other stuff—turns out to be cheaper and more efficient than a conventional method.
Graphitic oxides are commonly prepared using the Hummers method; however, in a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers show that another technique known as the Hofmann method leads to much better catalysis.
Whereas the Hummers method leads to the accumulation of sulfur on the surface of the graphitic oxide catalyst, which effectively acts as a poison for reactions, the Hofmann method was much more efficient and could enable researchers to carefully tune the surface of the catalyst.
The research world’s interest in graphene, which was discovered in 2004, has spurred exploration of graphene-related materials in the field of catalysis.
The latest work is part of a wider project at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute that builds on research into how to replace gold catalysts with cheaper and more sustainable alternatives.
Professor Graham Hutchings, the institute’s director, discovered that gold is a remarkable catalyst for certain reactions, most notably the production of vinyl chloride, the main ingredient of PVC.
Commenting on the new findings, Hutchings says: “As we look beyond gold to other, more promising materials such as those associated with graphene, this paper is a significant first step along that path.
“Our paper has shown that the most commonly used method used to produce a graphitic oxide catalyst, the Hummers method, leads not only to far different materials, but also inferior catalysts to those prepared by other less conventional methods.
“This is vitally important as graphitic oxide is used as a catalyst to create epoxides, which are found in a vast array of materials that we see around us each day.
“The findings are also critically important for researchers looking to exploit the remarkable properties of graphene and its related analogues.”
Source: Cardiff University