Solvation of Pristine Graphene Using Amino Acids: A Molecular Simulation and Experimental Analysis

Fai A. Alkathiri, Catriona McCallion, Alexander P. Golovanov, John Burthem, Alain Pluen, Richard A. Bryce

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Abstract

We explore the ability of amino acid solutions, of L-Trp, L-Tyr or L-Val, to solvate pristine graphene flakes in an aqueous environment, via atomistic molecular dynamics simulations and experimental characterization. In accord with previous theoretical work, simulations of single amino acid adsorption on graphene predict that L-Trp is most strongly bound, followed by L-Tyr then L-Val. As the number of amino acids is increased in the simulations, steric hindrance at the graphene interface and amino acid clustering (most pronounced for L-Tyr) reduces the efficiency of interaction with graphene. Using atomic force microscopy and UV-vis absorption spectroscopy, we determine that all three amino acid solutions can exfoliate and suspend pristine graphene flakes in water. However, L-Trp and L-Tyr solutions are considerably more effective than L-Val: L-Trp produces the most stable suspensions and thinnest graphene flakes compared to L-Tyr, with a mean thickness of 6.4 nm, and a narrow distribution of diameter with a mean value of 16 nm, commensurate with the width of cell membranes. At high concentration of L-Trp and L-Tyr, there was severe instability of the suspensions, along with agglomeration and precipitation; this reflects clustering of amino acid molecules observed in molecular dynamics simulations. This study indicates the potential of amino acids to exfoliate and suspend pristine graphene as a step towards developing non-toxic graphene-based vehicles for drug delivery and other in vivo applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1021/acs.jpcc.9b06648
Pages (from-to)30234-30244
JournalThe Journal of Physical Chemistry Part C: Nanomaterials, Interfaces and Hard Matter
Volume123
Issue number50
Early online date18 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2019

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