Bioproduced Polymers Self-Assemble with Graphene Oxide into Nanocomposite Films with Enhanced Mechanical Performance

Kuang Liang, Ewa M. Spiesz, Dominik T. Schmieden, An Wu Xu, Anne S. Meyer, Marie Eve Aubin-Tam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
326 Downloads (Pure)


Graphene oxide (GO) has recently been highlighted as a promising multipurpose two-dimensional material. However, free-standing graphene oxide films suffer from poor strength and flexibility, which limits scaling-up of production and lifetime structural robustness in applications. Inspired by the relationship between the organic and inorganic components of the hierarchical structure of nacre found in mollusk shells, we have fabricated self-assembled, layered graphene-based composite films. The organic phase of our composite is produced via environmentally friendly and economical methods based on bacterial production of γ-poly(glutamic acid) (PGA). Composite films made of GO, PGA, and divalent cations (Ca2+) were prepared through a slow solvent evaporation method at ambient temperature, resulting in a nacre-like layered structure. These biobased nanocomposite films showed impressive mechanical properties, which resulted from a synergistic combination of hydrogen bonding with the bacterially produced PGA and ionic bonding with calcium ions (Ca2+). The GO/PGA/Ca2+ composite films possessed a high strength of 150 ± 51.9 MPa and a high Young's modulus of 21.4 ± 8.7 GPa, which represents an increase of 120% and over 70% with respect to pure GO films. We provide rational design strategies for the production of graphene-based films with improved mechanical performance, which can be applied in filtration purification of wastewater in the paper, food, beverage, pigment, and pharmaceuticals industries, as well as for manufacturing of functional membranes and surface coatings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14731-14739
Number of pages9
JournalACS Nano
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • bacterial-produced γ-poly(glutamic acid)
  • composite film
  • graphene oxides
  • ionic bonding
  • mechanical properties


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