Protein-assisted scalable mechanochemical exfoliation of few-layer biocompatible graphene nanosheets
A facile method to produce few-layer graphene (FLG) nanosheets is developed using protein-assisted mechanical exfoliation. The predominant shear forces that are generated in a planetary ball mill facilitate the exfoliation of graphene layers from graphite flakes. The process employs a commonly known protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA), which not only acts as an effective exfoliation agent but also provides stability by preventing restacking of the graphene layers. The latter is demonstrated by the excellent long-term dispersibility of exfoliated graphene in an aqueous BSA solution, which exemplifies a common biological medium. The development of such potentially scalable and toxin-free methods is critical for producing cost-effective biocompatible graphene, enabling numerous possible biomedical and biological applications. A methodical study was performed to identify the effect of time and varying concentrations of BSA towards graphene exfoliation. The fabricated product has been characterized using Raman spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. The BSA-FLG dispersion was then placed in media containing Astrocyte cells to check for cytotoxicity. It was found that lower concentrations of BSA-FLG dispersion had only minute cytotoxic effects on the Astrocyte cells.