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October 27, 2010
Graphene Oxide as a Reagent
Since graphene was worth a Nobel prize this year, it's only fitting that I mention a recent application of it in chemical synthesis. A paper in Angewandte Chemie shows how graphene oxide can be used as an oxidizing reagent for organic compounds. It performs primary alcohol-to-aldehyde, secondary alcohol-to-ketone, and alkyne-to-methylene ketone reactions quite well. This doesn't seem to be due to residual metals, but is a reaction of the graphene oxide (GO) itself, which is probably a complex mixture of epoxides and who-knows-what on the carbon surface.
Interestingly, it appears that the GO can be regenerated by atmospheric oxygen as the reaction goes on (and then re-used_, so in the end, these processes are being performed by the oxygen itself. This could be an appealing method for scaleup, since it drastically reduces some possible waste streams. The turnover isn't as high as with some more traditional oxidants, but the cost might be hard to beat.
The first thing I thought of was using this material in a flow reactor, perhaps with occasional bubbling of oxygen into the solvent stream. It seems likely that as we learn to manipulate the surfaces of such materials that we'll find some very useful catalysts. . .
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