The biological effects of graphene and graphene-related materials are dependent on their physico-chemical properties. Also existing coatings significantly determine their biological effect.


At the moment there is no information available about how or to which extend humans are exposed to graphene and graphene related materials.

If graphene and graphene-related compounds are potentially toxic, is yet to be clarified.

In scientific literature the term graphene is often used for a variety of substances similar to graphene, but which are different to graphene regarding their physico-chemical properties and their biological activity. As a consequence, there are inconsistent statements published and disagreement exists about the biological effects of graphene. Graphene-related materials are available in multiple sizes, shapes and with different chemical modifications. For example, it is possible that a graphene-related material consists of only one layer (graphene) or of a multilayer-system like graphite. Also graphene-related materials can be produced by very different methods. The manufacturing method and the raw materials used as well as chemical and biological contaminants can equally influence the biological activity.

To what extend these different parameters influence the toxicological profile is the topic of current studies. For the specification of the toxicological profiles of graphene and graphene-related materials a standardized nomenclature and classification system is absolutely mandatory. One suggestion for such nomenclature has been given recently [1]. Based on this design, concepts for the classification of graphene-related materials depending on their physico-chemical properties for biomedical applications [2] and nanosafety-research [3] were developed. In addition to graphene and its common graphene-related materials like graphite, graphene oxide and graphite oxide a variety of graphene-derivatives and other 2D-materials [4] have been developed, whose biological activity is not known yet.


Literature arrow down

  1. Bianco, A et al. (2013), Carbon, 65:1-6
  2. Kostarelos, K & Novoselov, KS (2014), Science, 344(6181): 261-263
  3. Wick, P et al. (2014), Angew Chem Int Ed, 53(30): 7714-7718
  4. Inagaki, M & Kang, F (2014), J Mat Chem A, 2(33): 13193-13206



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