A blueprint for the synthesis and characterisation of thin graphene oxide with controlled lateral dimensions for biomedicine

Graphene-based materials (GBMs) have ignited a revolution in material science and technology, with electronic, optical and mechanical properties that are of relevant interest for a wide range of applications. To support the development of these enabling technologies, a global research effort has been invested to assess their hazard and biocompatibility. Different production methods have however generated a diverse collection of GBMs with different physicochemical properties, leading to a variety of biological outcomes that are still not fully understood. To better understand the biological interactions of GBMs with biological systems and allow the design of safer materials, a thorough physicochemical characterisation is therefore highly recommended. The aim of the present work was to produce a blueprint for the synthesis and characterisation of non-pyrogenic graphene oxide (GO) flakes with three different controlled lateral dimensions, which could be further used for either hazard assessment or biomedical proof-of-concept studies. A battery of techniques used to characterise the physicochemical properties of the GO samples included atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, Fourier-transformed infra-red spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The combination of these different techniques confirmed that only the lateral dimension varied among the GO materials produced, without significant change in any other of their fundamental physicochemical properties, such as the thickness or surface chemistry. The proposed systematic approach in GO batch production for biology will hopefully contribute to a better understanding of the material properties that govern their interactions with biological systems and offer a blueprint towards standardisation of biologically relevant 2D materials.