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Degradation of 14C-labeled Graphene via Fenton Reaction: Reaction rates, characterization of reaction products, and potential ecological effects



Yiping Feng, Elijah Petersen, Kun Lu, Xiangke Guo, Shixiang Gao, Liang Mao


Graphene has attracted considerable interest due to its numerous emerging applications. It is inevitable that graphene will be released into the environment during their transportation and usage in consumer products, but their ecological risks are still largely unknown. Understanding the environmental transformations of graphene is important to their life cycle assessment. Previous studies have demonstrated that carbon-based nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes (CNTs), fullerenes, and graphene oxide (GO), are (bio)degradable, but no work was conducted to explore the degradation of graphene. Our experiments revealed that graphene can be effectively transformed through reactions that are mediated by the Fenton reagent. We systematically assessed the reaction efficiencies by varying environmentally important parameters. Degradation of graphene by the iron/hydrogen peroxide induced Fenton reaction and the potential implications of the produced byproducts were analyzed using multiple orthogonal methods. Quantification of 14CO2 from 14C-labeled graphene demonstrated significant degradation of graphene during a 3 d period. Analysis of structural changes to the remaining graphene after the Fenton reaction using Raman, ultraviolet-visible, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, FTIR and AFM measurements revealed significant graphene oxidation. Mass spectrometry analysis identified multiple reaction byproducts. The techniques were largely in agreement yet each was necessary to provide a full understanding of the degradation process. Lastly, assessment of accumulation and toxic effects of the degraded graphene and intermediates using aquatic organism Daphnia magna did not show immobilization and revealed substantially decreased body burdens.
Environmental Health Perspectives


Feng, Y. , Petersen, E. , Lu, K. , Guo, X. , Gao, S. and Mao, L. (2015), Degradation of 14C-labeled Graphene via Fenton Reaction: Reaction rates, characterization of reaction products, and potential ecological effects, Environmental Health Perspectives, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created September 27, 2015, Updated October 12, 2021