Graphene quantum dots (GQDs) represent a new class of quantum dots with unique properties. Doping GQDs with heteroatoms provides an attractive means of effectively tuning their intrinsic properties and exploiting new phenomena for advanced device applications. Herein we report a simple electrochemical approach to luminescent and electrocatalytically active nitrogen-doped GQDs (N-GQDs) with oxygen-rich functional groups. Unlike their N-free counterparts, the newly produced N-GQDs with a N/C atomic ratio of ca. 4.3% emit blue luminescence and possess an electrocatalytic activity comparable to that of a commercially available Pt/C catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in an alkaline medium. In addition to their use as metal-free ORR catalysts in fuel cells, the superior luminescence characteristic of N-GQDs allows them to be used for biomedical imaging and other optoelectronic applications.
© 2011 American Chemical Society