Environmental impact of the production of graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide

L. Serrano-Luján, S. Víctor-Román, C. Toledo, O. Sanahuja-Parejo, A. E. Mansour, J. Abad, Aram Amassian, A. M. Benito, W. K. Maser, A. Urbina

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62 Scopus citations


Reduced graphene oxide (rGO) is widely seen as the most promising route for the low-cost mass production of graphene for many applications ranging from ultrathin electrodes to structural nanocomposites. The Hummers and Marcano methods are the two most successful approaches for producing high-performance rGO, but have been criticized for producing toxic emissions. We have applied life cycle assessment methodology to evaluate the environmental impacts of both production routes for GO and rGO in the context of applications requiring bulk materials or thin coatings. We find no current obstacle to the industrial scale production of graphene arising from its environmental impact. The cumulative energy demand is found to have a cap value between 20.7 and 68.5 GJ/Kg, a relatively high value; impact in other categories (such as human toxicity or resource depletion) is lower, and materials inventory does not include critical/strategic materials other than graphite itself. Our study proposes 1 kg of graphene as functional unit, and an application-specific functional unit normalized by conductivity which show that Hummers production method is far more suitable for bulk applications of graphene, with lower embedded energy per kg of graphene production, while Marcano’s production method is better suited for thin film electronic applications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSN Applied Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 25 2019


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