Synthesis and formation mechanistic investigation of nitrogen-doped carbon dots with high quantum yields and yellowish-green fluorescence†
Heteroatom doped carbon dots (CDs) have received increasing attention due to their unique properties and related applications. However, previously reported CDs generally show strong emission only in the blue-light region, thus restricting their further applications. And the fundamental investigation on the preparation process is always neglected. Herein, we have developed a simple and solvent-free synthetic strategy to fabricate nitrogen-doped CDs (N-CDs) from citric acid and dicyandiamide. The as-prepared N-CDs exhibited a uniform size distribution, strong yellowish-green fluorescence emission and a high quantum yield of 73.2%. The products obtained at different formation stages were detailedly characterized by transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction spectrometer, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and UV absorbance spectroscopy. A possible formation mechanism has thus been proposed including dehydration, polymerization and carbonization. Furthermore, the N-CDs could serve as a facile and label-free probe for the detection of iron and fluorine ions with detection limits of 50 nmol L−1 and 75 nmol L−1, respectively.