Research Highlight

Safer method to synthesize graphene oxide

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.84 Published online 17 July 2017

Although graphene – the wonder material discovered in 2004 – has found several uses, water soluble graphene is a better option for biomedical applications. Researches at Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) at Shibpur in West Bengal have now developed a non-hazardous method of making graphene oxide, the water soluble form of graphene1.

Graphene as such is insoluble since no solvent can introduce the force needed to break the extremely strong covalent bonds tying its carbon atoms together. It is made soluble in another form – graphene oxide (GO) – but the process of conversion uses hazardous acids and oxidizing chemicals.Can there be a less hazardous method for making GO so that graphene can expand its applications in biomedical research? That was the question Sabyasachi Sarkar, visiting professor at IIEST, and his team asked. 

"GO produced by current method remains contaminated with several ionic impurities and these are not suitable for biomedical applications," Sarkar told Nature India. "Our method to get GO is simpler and does not require any corrosive and explosive acid mixture and the unreacted graphite may be reused," he said.

Nano carbon biosystems, in the form of water soluble GO, functionalised with peptides, proteins or small molecules, can be used for bioimaging or to build biosensors and biodevices to transport drug across the blood-brain barrier, Sarkar said. The authors claim their strategy will be readily useful to surface-coat graphite by GO or its other derivatives for industrial applications as well.


1. Pakhira, B. et al.  Graphene oxide : A no-Acid low-temperature synthesis from graphite. Chem. Select 2, 5564–5569 (2017) doi: 10.1002/slct.201700751