Development of nitrogen-doped carbon quantum dots as fluorescent probes for highly selective and sensitive detection of the heavy-ion Fe3+


Highly luminescent carbon quantum dots (CQDs) are developed as fluorescent probes for selective detection of the heavy-ion Fe3+, where the CQDs exhibit excellent nontoxicity, functionalizability, sensitivity, and selectivity. Biomass-based CQDs and nitrogen-doped CQDs (N-CQDs) are synthesized for the selective detection of Fe3+ by using H2O2 as an oxidant and polyetherimide (PEI) as a nitrogen precursor by a green hydrothermal synthesis method. The prepared CQDs and N-CQDs exhibit an elliptical morphology and with an average particle size of 7 and 4 nm, respectively, and emit blue photoluminescence at 445 and 468 nm under excitation at 367 and 343 nm, respectively. The CQDs and N-CQDs exhibit good water solubility because of the abundant hydroxyl and carboxyl/carbonyl groups and graphic/pyrrolic/pyridinic nitrogen on the surfaces, giving rise to a quantum yield of about 24.2% and 30.7%, respectively. Notably, the Matrimony vine-PEI-based CQDs exhibit excellent Fe3+ selectivity and sensitivity relative to the Matrimony vine-based CQDs due to complexation of the numerous phenolic hydroxyl groups and nitrogen-containing groups with Fe3+, leading to increased fluorescence quenching, which greatly improves the sensitivity of detection. The minimum detection limit was 2.22 µmol L−1 with a complexation constant of 44.7.

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This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51703192), the 2020 Annual “Thirteenth Five Year” Planning Project of the Education Department of Jilin Province (JJKH20200515KJ), and the Innovation Team Project of Yanbian University (China).

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Correspondence to Yingai Piao or Long-Yue Meng.

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Liu, R., Zhang, Y., Piao, Y. et al. Development of nitrogen-doped carbon quantum dots as fluorescent probes for highly selective and sensitive detection of the heavy-ion Fe3+. Carbon Lett. (2021).

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  • N-doped carbon quantum dots
  • Matrimony vine
  • Polyetherimide
  • Fe ion detection