Femtosecond laser ablation of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite: a green route for large-scale production of porous graphene and graphene quantum dots†
Porous graphene (PG) and graphene quantum dots (GQDs) are attracting attention due to their potential applications in photovoltaics, catalysis, and bio-related fields. We present a novel way for mass production of these promising materials. The femtosecond laser ablation of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) is employed for their synthesis. Porous graphene (PG) layers were found to float at the water–air interface, while graphene quantum dots (GQDs) were dispersed in the solution. The sheets consist of one to six stacked layers of spongy graphene, which form an irregular 3D porous structure that displays pores with an average size of 15–20 nm. Several characterization techniques have confirmed the porous nature of the collected layers. The analyses of the aqueous solution confirmed the presence of GQDs with dimensions of about 2–5 nm. It is found that the formation of both PG and GQDs depends on the fs-laser ablation energy. At laser fluences less than 12 J cm−2, no evidence of either PG or GQDs is detected. However, polyynes with six and eight carbon atoms per chain are found in the solution. For laser energies in the 20–30 J cm−2 range, these polyynes disappeared, while PG and GQDs were found at the water–air interface and in the solution, respectively. The origin of these materials can be explained based on the mechanisms for water breakdown and coal gasification. The absence of PG and GQDs, after the laser ablation of HOPG in liquid nitrogen, confirms the proposed mechanisms.