Preparation of shape-specific (trilateral and quadrilateral) carbon quantum dots towards multiple color emission†
Little progress has been achieved relating to the preparation of shape-specific carbon quantum dots (CQDs) with a well-ordered edge structure and multi-color fluorescence from a single precursor by monitoring and controlling the reaction time. Selecting phloroglucinol (having suitable three-fold symmetry, C3h; symmetry elements: E, C3, C32, σh, S3, S3−1) as a precursor of CQDs is useful for monitoring the shape and structure of CQDs during dehydration mediated controlled growth, which assists to better focus on their formation and PL emission mechanism. We report the rapid synthesis of novel shape-specific (trilateral and quadrilateral) CQDs with multi-color fluorescence emission [blue (B-CQDs), green (G-CQDs), and yellow (Y-CQDs)] by controlling the reaction time. The mechanism of controlled bottom-up growth involves six-membered ring cyclization of the single precursor (phloroglucinol) through the elimination of neighboring active –OH and –H groups in a sulfuric acid medium. Interestingly, wide-range multi-color fluorescence emission of non-nitrogenous CQDs is achieved based on solvatochromism. We consider that the evolution of the tunable photoluminescence (PL) emission can be attributed to both the size of the conjugated domain and oxygen-/sulfur-containing edge electronic states. Furthermore, the multi-color fluorescence CQDs are successfully used as propitious fluorescent probes for multi-color cell (HeLa) and zebra fish larvae imaging owing to an effective intracellular distribution and good biocompatibility.