Similar to the popular older cousins, luminescent carbon dots (C-dots), graphene quantum dots or graphene quantum discs (GQDs) have generated enormous excitement because of their superiority in chemical inertness, biocompatibility and low toxicity. Besides, GQDs, consisting of a single atomic layer of nano-sized graphite, have the excellent performances of graphene, such as high surface area, large diameter and better surface grafting using π–π conjugation and surface groups. Because of the structure of graphene, GQDs have some other special physical properties. Therefore, studies on GQDs in aspects of chemistry, physical, materials, biology and interdisciplinary science have been in full flow in the past decade. In this Feature Article, recent developments in preparation of GQDs are discussed, focusing on the main two approaches (top-down and bottom-down). Emphasis is given to their future and potential development in bioimaging, electrochemical biosensors and catalysis, and specifically in photovoltaic devices that can solve increasingly serious energy problems.