Large-scale production of edge-selectively functionalized graphene nanoplatelets via ball milling and their use as metal-free electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction

J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Jan 30;135(4):1386-93. doi: 10.1021/ja3091643. Epub 2012 Nov 12.


Edge-selectively functionalized graphene nanoplatelets (EFGnPs) with different functional groups were efficiently prepared simply by dry ball milling graphite in the presence of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, sulfur trioxide, or carbon dioxide/sulfur trioxide mixture. Upon exposure to air moisture, the resultant hydrogen- (HGnP), carboxylic acid- (CGnP), sulfonic acid- (SGnP), and carboxylic acid/sulfonic acid- (CSGnP) functionalized GnPs readily dispersed into various polar solvents, including neutral water. The resultant EFGnPs were then used as electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in an alkaline electrolyte. It was found that the edge polar nature of the newly prepared EFGnPs without heteroatom doping into their basal plane played an important role in regulating the ORR efficiency with the electrocatalytic activity in the order of SGnP > CSGnP > CGnP > HGnP > pristine graphite. More importantly, the sulfur-containing SGnP and CSGnP were found to have a superior ORR performance to commercially available platinum-based electrocatalyst.