New solvent-stabilized few-layer black phosphorus for antibacterial applications†
Discovering highly efficient, environmentally friendly, and low-cost exfoliating media that can both disperse and protect black phosphorus (BP) remains a challenge. Herein, we demonstrate such a new molecule, N,N′-dimethylpropyleneurea (DMPU), for effective exfoliation and dispersion of two-dimensional BP nanosheets. A very high exfoliation efficiency of up to 16% was achieved in DMPU, significantly surpassing other good solvents. Exfoliated flakes are free from structural disorder or oxidation. Nanosheets retain high stability in DMPU even after addition of 25 vol% of common solvents. The solvation shell appears to protect the nanosheets from reacting with water and air, more remarkably than the best solvent N-cyclohexyl-2-pyrrolidone reported so far. Molecular dynamics simulations of the exfoliation process show that DMPU is among the effective solvents, although energetically it does not appear as favorable as some other amides. We also demonstrate that our exfoliated BP nanosheets exhibit excellent antimicrobial activities against both Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, outperforming other common two-dimensional materials of graphene and MoS2, suggesting promise in biomedical applications.