In-house prepared graphene oxide (GO) was processed via base washing, sonication, cleaning and combinations of these processing techniques to evaluate the impact on the flake morphology, composition and cytotoxicity of the material. The flakes of unprocessed GO were relatively planar, but upon base washing, the flakes became textured exhibiting many folds and creases observed by AFM. In addition to the pronounced effect on the topography, base washing increased the C/O ratio and increased the cytotoxicity of GO on all four cell lines studied determined via the WST-8 assay. Sonicating the unprocessed and base washed samples resulted in smaller flakes with a similar topography; the base washed flakes lost the texture previously observed upon sonication. The sonicated samples were more toxic than the unprocessed sample, attributed to the smaller flake size, but were interestingly less toxic than the base washed, unsonicated sample despite the base washed unsonicated sample having a larger flake size. This unexpected finding was confirmed by a second analyst using the same, and a different source of GO and resulted in the conclusion that the morphology of GO greatly impacts the cytotoxicity. Cleaning the GO reduced the amount of nitrogen and sulfur impurities in the sample but had no significant impact on the cytotoxicity of the material. It was observed that nutrient depletion via nanomaterial adsorption was not the route of cytotoxicity for the GO samples studied.
Nanoscale Advances
Department of Chemistry

Gies, V. (Valerie), Lopinski, G. (Gregory), Augustine, J. (Jerry), Cheung, T. (Timothy), Kodra, O. (Oltion), & Zou, S. (2019). The impact of processing on the cytotoxicity of graphene oxide. Nanoscale Advances, 1(2), 817–826. doi:10.1039/c8na00178b