Turning waste into wealth: facile and green synthesis of carbon nanodots from pollutants and applications to bioimaging†
In an effort to turn waste into wealth, Reactive Red 2 (RR2), a common and refractory organic pollutant in industrial wastewater, has been employed for the first time as a precursor to synthesize carbon nanodots (CNDs) by a facile, green and low-cost route, without utilization of any strong acids or other oxidizers. The detailed characterizations have confirmed that the synthesized CNDs exhibit good water dispersibility, with a mean particle size of 2.43 nm and thickness of 1–3 layers. Importantly, the excellent fluorescence properties and much reduced biotoxicity of the CNDs confer its potential applications in further biological imaging, which has been successfully verified in both in vitro (cell culture) and in vivo (zebrafish) model systems. Thus, it is demonstrated that the synthesized CNDs exhibit nice biocompatibility and fluorescence properties for bioimaging. This work not only provides a novel economical and environmentally friendly approach in recycling a chemical pollutant, but also greatly promotes the potential application of CNDs in biological imaging.