Nanoscale, 2020, 12 (23), 12383-12394

Stable, concentrated, biocompatible, and defect-free graphene dispersions with positive charge

Yuyoung Shin, Sandra Vranic, Xavier Just-Baringo, Manoj Gali, Thomas Kisby, Yingxian Chen, Alexandra Gkoutzidou, Eric Prestat, David Beljonne, Igor Larrosa*, Kostas Kostarelos*, Cinzia Casiraghi*

The outstanding properties of graphene offer high potential for biomedical applications. In this framework, positively charged nanomaterials show better interactions with the biological environment, hence there is strong interest in the production of positively charged graphene nanosheets. Currently, production of cationic graphene is either time consuming or producing dispersions with poor stability, which strongly limit their use in the biomedical field. In this study, we made a family of new cationic pyrenes, and have used them to successfully produce water-based, highly concentrated, stable, and defect-free graphene dispersions with positive charge. The use of different pyrene derivatives as well as molecular dynamics simulations allowed us getting insights on the nanoscale interactions required to achieve efficient exfoliation and stabilisation. The cationic graphene dispersions show outstanding biocompatibility and cellular uptake as well as exceptional colloidal stability in the biological medium, making this material extremely attractive for biomedical applications.