Angel Pérez del Pino, Arántzazu González-Campo, Sandra Giraldo, José Peral, Enikö György, Constantin Logofatu, Andrew J. de Mello, Josep Puigmartí-Luis. Carbon Volume 130, April 2018, Pages 48-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbon.2017.12.116
The synthesis of metal-free graphene-based photocatalysts has received great attention recently due to their expected contributions to the development of solar-based hydrogen generation via water-splitting in a low cost and ecological manner. In this work, a new method for the generation of nitrogen-doped graphene-based powder employing an alternative solution to commonly used toxic and hazardous organic solvents is presented. The procedure involves ultraviolet pulsed laser irradiation of graphene oxide (GO) flakes dispersed in 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium [bmim]-based ionic liquids using both chloride and acetate anions. The structural and compositional analysis using transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron and infrared spectroscopy indicate that the irradiated GO becomes partially reduced and doped with graphitic, pyrrolic and pyridinic nitrogen species. Interestingly, the relative content of the nitrogen functionalities is controlled by the anion in the ionic liquid and its concentration, with the obtained graphene-based powders showing higher photocatalytic activity than GO. Furthermore, a remarkable synergistic effect is observed for GO-[bmim]-acetate powder (acting as co-catalyst) in combination with anatase TiO2 nanoparticles. The presented method opens new research avenues for the cost-effective mass production of graphene-based photocatalysts for water splitting applications.