Surface functionalization of graphene-based materials: biological behavior, toxicology, and safe-by-design aspects

Zhiling Guo, Swaroop Chakraborty, Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh, Dimitra-Danai Varsou, Andrew J Chetwynd, Antreas Afantitis, Iseult Lynch, Peng Zhang

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The increasing exploitation of graphene-based materials (GBMs) is driven by their unique properties and structures, which ignite the imagination of scientists and engineers. At the same time, the very properties that make them so useful for applications lead to growing concerns regarding their potential impacts on human health and the environment. Since GBMs are inert to reaction, various attempts of surface functionalization are made to make them reactive. Herein, surface functionalization of GBMs, including those intentionally designed for specific applications, as well as those unintentionally acquired (e.g., protein corona formation) from the environment and biota, are reviewed through the lenses of nanotoxicity and design of safe materials (safe-by-design). Uptake and toxicity of functionalized GBMs and the underlying mechanisms are discussed and linked with the surface functionalization. Computational tools that can predict the interaction of GBMs behavior with their toxicity are discussed. A concise framing of current knowledge and key features of GBMs to be controlled for safe and sustainable applications are provided for the community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2100637
Number of pages29
JournalAdvanced Biology
Issue number9
Early online date20 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgement: This work was primarily supported by the EU H2020 project NanoSolveIT (Grant Agreement No. 814572), RiskGone (Grant Agreement No. 814425), and NanoCommons (Grant Agreement No. 731032). Additional support from the UoB Institute for Global Innovation Environmental Pollution Solutions theme is acknowledged.

© 2021 The Authors. Advanced Biology published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.


  • corona
  • graphene
  • surface functionalization
  • toxicity
  • uptake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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