Skip to content
The Graphene Flagship studies the safety of graphene and related materials
The Graphene Flagship studies the safety of graphene and related materials

News -

Graphene and related materials safety: human health and the environment

As the drive to commercialise graphene continues, it is important that all safety aspects are thoroughly researched and understood. The Graphene Flagship project has a dedicated Work Package studying the impact of graphene and related materials on our health, as well as their environmental impact. This enables safety by design to become a core part of innovation.

Researches and companies are currently using a range of materials such as few layered graphene, graphene oxide and heterostructures. The first step to assess the toxicology is to fully characterise these materials. This work overviews the production and characterisation methods, and considers different materials, which biological effects depend on their inherent properties.

"One of the key messages is that this family of materials has varying properties, thus displaying varying biological effects. It is important to emphasize the need not only for a systematic analysis of well-characterized graphene-based materials, but also the importance of using standardised in vitro or in vivo assays for the safety assessment," says Bengt Fadeel, lead author of this paper working at Graphene Flagship partner Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

"This review correlates the physicochemical characteristics of graphene and related materials to the biological effects. A classification based on lateral dimensions, number of layers and carbon-to-oxygen ratio allows us to describe the parameters that can alter graphene's toxicology. This can orient future development and use of these materials," explains Alberto Bianco, from Graphene Flagship partner CNRS, France and deputy leader of the Graphene Flagship Work Package on Health and Environment.

nn-2018-04758s_0010.jpeg

Illustration of the life cycle of graphene-based materials. (CC-BY 2018 American Chemical Society.)

The paper gives a comprehensive overview of all aspects of graphene health and environmental impact, focussing on the potential interactions of graphene-based materials with key target organs including immune system, skin, lungs, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, central nervous system, reproductive system, as well as a wide range of other organisms including bacteria, algae, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates in various ecosystems.

"One cannot draw conclusions from previous work on other carbon-based materials such as carbon nanotubes and extrapolate to graphene. Graphene-based materials are less cytotoxic when compared to carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide is readily degradable by cells of the immune system," comments Fadeel.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel added that "understanding any potential Health and Environmental impacts of graphene and related materials has been at the core of all Graphene Flagship activities since day one. This review provides a solid guide for the safe use of these materials, a key step towards their widespread utilization as targeted by our innovation and technology roadmap."

Reference:

Bengt Fadeel, Cyrill Bussy, Sonia Merino, Ester Vázquez, Emmanuel Flahaut, Florence Mouchet, Lauris Evariste, Laury Gauthier, Antti J. Koivisto, Ulla Vogel, Cristina Martín, Lucia G. Delogu, Tina Buerki-Thurnherr, Peter Wick, Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre, Roland Hischier, Marco Pelin, Fabio Candotto Carniel, Mauro Tretiach, Fabrizia Cesca, Fabio Benfenati, Denis Scaini, Laura Ballerini, Kostas Kostarelos, Maurizio Prato, and Alberto Bianco. "Safety Assessment of Graphene-Based Materials: Focus on Human Health and the Environment." ACS Nano 2018, 12, 10582−10620. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b04758.

Related content

The Graphene Flagship celebrates a decade of 2D materials innovation

Funded by the European Commission in 2013, the Graphene Flagship has brought graphene innovation out of the lab and into commercial applications. Bringing diverse competencies from nearly 170 academic and industrial partners in 22 countries together, the Graphene Flagship facilitates cooperation between its partners, accelerating the timeline for industry acceptance of graphene technologies. With applications in everything from energy and transportation to electronics and biomedicine, graphene and other 2D materials are changing the way we live and work. The European Commission’s FET Flagships enable research projects on an unprecedented scale. With €1 billion budgets, the Graphene Flagship, Human Brain Project and Quantum Flagship serve as technology accelerators, helping Europe to compete with other global markets in research and innovation. With an additional €20 million investment, the European Commission has now funded the creation of an experimental pilot line for graphene-based electronics, optoelectronics and sensors.

Graphene Flagship