Valorization of cellulose and waste paper to graphene oxide quantum dots†
Biobased graphene oxide quantum dots (GOQD) were derived from cellulose via carbon nanospheres (CN) as intermediate products. Solid CN were synthesized from cellulose through microwave-assisted hydrothermal degradation of α-cellulose with H2SO4 as a catalyst at 160 °C. The obtained CN were further utilized for the synthesis of GOQD by a two-step reaction including 30 minutes of sonication followed by heating at 90 °C under O-rich acidic conditions (HNO3). This process broke down the 3D CN to 2D GOQD. The size of the synthesized GOQD was controlled by the heating time, reaching a dot diameter of 3.3 nm and 1.2 nm after 30 and 60 minutes of heating, respectively. The synthesis process and products were characterized by multiple analytical techniques including FTIR, TGA, SEM, TEM, XPS, XRD, BET, DLS and AFM. Interesting optical properties in aqueous solutions were demonstrated by UV/Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy. Finally we demonstrated that corresponding GOQD can be synthesized from waste paper. This production route thus uses renewable and cheap starting materials and relatively mild synthesis procedures leads to instant nanometric production of 2D dots. In addition it enables recycling of low quality waste to value-added products.