Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 409, Issue 9, pp 2373–2382 | Cite as

A versatile ratiometric nanosensing approach for sensitive and accurate detection of Hg2+ and biological thiols based on new fluorescent carbon quantum dots

  • Huili Fu
  • Zhongyin Ji
  • Xuejie Chen
  • Anwei Cheng
  • Shucheng Liu
  • Peiwei Gong
  • Guoliang LiEmail author
  • Guang Chen
  • Zhiwei Sun
  • Xianen Zhao
  • Feng Cheng
  • Jinmao YouEmail author
Research Paper


Herein, we first reported a facile synthesis method for fabrication of highly photoluminescent carbon quantum dots (CQDs) using sodium alginate as the carbon source and histidine as both the nitrogen source and functional monomer by one-pot hydrothermal synthesis. The as-prepared CQDs gave a high quantum yield of 32%. By employing the new CQDs and rhodamine B (RhB), we demonstrated a simple, facile, sensitive, and accurate ratiometric sensor for detection of Hg2+ and biological thiols. The photoluminescence of CQDs in the ratiometric sensor can be selectively and intensively suppressed by Hg2+ due to strong electrostatic interaction between the surface functional groups of the CQDs and Hg2+. When glutathione (GSH) was introduced into the “Turn Off” CQDs-RhB-Hg2+ sensing system, the fluorescence of the CQDs can be recovered rapidly due to the stronger affinity between thiol and Hg2+, while the fluorescence of the RhB remained constant in this sensing process. Based on the above principle, the ratiometric strategy for detecting Hg2+ and GSH can be achieved readily, and gives satisfactory limit of detections (LODs) of 30 and 20 nM for Hg2+ and GSH, respectively. The dual-emission fluorescent CQDs-RhB sensor does not need the complicated molecular design and the synthesis of dual-emission fluorophores. Meanwhile, the feasibility of the proposed method for analysis of water samples, food samples, and biological samples (plasma from mice oxidative stress study) was investigated. The developed ratiometric nanosensor is proven to be facile, with less sample consumption, rapid, lost cost, highly sensitive, and very selective for Hg2+ and biological thiol detection, which offers a new approach for environmental, food, and biological analysis.

Graphical abstract

Ratiometric nanosensing approach detection of Hg2+ and biological thiols


Carbon quantum dots Glutathione Fluorescence 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21677085, 31301595, 21475074, 81303179, 21305076, and 21475075), the Project funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2016M590071), The Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province (ZR2013BQ019 and ZR2016EMB04), Project of Shandong Province Higher Educational Science and Technology Program (J16LA03), the National Science and Technology Support Program of China (No. 2015BAD16B02), and National Undergraduate Training Program for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (No. 201510446060). We also thank Dr. Shuwei Sun for his good advice in the preparation of N-doped carbon quantum dots.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests

Animal treatment

Kunming mice were obtained from animal house, China Biologic Products, Inc. This study was performed strictly according to the standards described in the “Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals” (National Research Council Commission on Life Sciences, 1996 edition). All animal treatment procedures were approved by the Animal Care Committee of Qufu Normal University, and all efforts were made to minimize suffering.

Supplementary material

216_2017_183_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (269 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 268 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Huili Fu
    • 1
  • Zhongyin Ji
    • 1
  • Xuejie Chen
    • 1
  • Anwei Cheng
    • 2
  • Shucheng Liu
    • 3
  • Peiwei Gong
    • 1
  • Guoliang Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Guang Chen
    • 1
  • Zhiwei Sun
    • 1
  • Xianen Zhao
    • 1
  • Feng Cheng
    • 1
  • Jinmao You
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Life-Organic Analysis of Shandong ProvinceQufu Normal UniversityQufuChina
  2. 2.Institute of Agro-food Science and TechnologyShandong Academy of Agricultural SciencesJinanChina
  3. 3.Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Aquatic Product Processing and Safety, College of Food Science and TechnologyGuangdong Ocean UniversityZhanjiangChina

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