Papaioannou N, Marinovic A, Yoshizawa N, Goode AE, Fay M, Khlobystov A, Titirici M-Mand Sapelkin A
Sci Rep vol. 8, (1), 2018
Carbon nanodots are a new and intriguing class of fluorescent carbon nanomaterials and are considered a promising low cost, nontoxic alternative to traditional inorganic quantum dots in applications such as bioimaging, solar cells, photocatalysis, sensors and others. Despite the abundant available literature, a clear formation mechanism for carbon nanodots prepared hydrothermally from biomass precursors along with the origins of the light emission are still under debate. In this paper, we investigate the relationships between the chemical structure and optical properties of carbon nanodots prepared by the hydrothermal treatment of glucose. Our major finding is that the widely reported excitation-dependent emission originates from solvents used to suspend the as-prepared carbon nanodots, while emission from dry samples shows no excitation-dependence. Another important highlight is that the hydrothermal conversion of biomass-derivatives under subcritical conditions leads to a heterogeneous mixture of amorphous-like nanoparticles, carbon onion-type and crystalline carbons composed of at least three different phases. The potential chemical reaction pathways involved in the formation of these hydrothermal carbon products along with a comprehensive structural and optical characterization of these systems is also provided.