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Nanoscale 2015, 7(47), 20256-20266

Refinements to the structure of graphite oxide: absolute quantification of functional groups via selective labelling

Chemical modification and functionalization of inherent functional groups within graphite oxide ( GO) are essential aspects of graphene-based nano-materials used in wide-ranging applications. Despite extensive research, there remains some discrepancy in its structure, with current knowledge limited primarily to spectroscopic data from XPS, NMR and vibrational spectroscopies. We report herein an innovative electrochemistry-based approach. Four electroactive labels are chosen to selectively functionalize groups in GO, and quantification of each group is achieved by voltammetric analysis. This allows for the first time quantification of absolute amounts of each group, with a further advantage of distinguishing various carbonyl species: namely ortho-and para-quinones from aliphatic ketones. Intrinsic variations in the compositions of permanganate versus chlorate-oxidized GOs were thus observed. Principal differences include permanganate-GO exhibiting substantial quinonyl content, in comparison to chlorate-GO with the vast majority of its carbonyls as isolated ketones. The results confirm that carboxylic groups are rare in actuality, and are in fact entirely absent from chlorate-GO. These observations refine and advance our understanding of GO structure by addressing certain disparities in past models resulting from employment of different oxidation routes, with the vital implication that GO production methods cannot be used interchangeably in the manufacture of graphene-based devices.

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