A construction strategy for ratiometric fluorescent nanosensors based on water soluble C-dots was developed, which could sense temperature (10–82 °C), pH values (lower than 6.0 or higher than 8.6) and Fe3+ ions (>0.04 μM) by monitoring the intensity ratios of dual fluorescence bands (Ib/Ig) under 380 nm excitation. Ib/Ig decreased nearly linearly with increasing temperature from 10 to 82 °C. In the pH range from 8.6 to 6.0, the Ib/Ig was nearly constant at 0.75. Ib/Ig gradually decreased from 0.75 to 0.52 in the pH range from 6.0 to 1.9, and increased nearly linearly from 0.52 to 0.75 in the pH range from 1.9 to 1.0. The dual fluorescence behavior was reversible in the pH range from 1.0 to 8.6. As pH increased from 10.6 to 13.0, the green fluorescence band decreased continuously and blue shifted with a nearly linear increase in Ib/Ig from 0.75 to 2.15, while the green fluorescence band cannot be recovered by decreasing the pH value. Ib/Ig was ultrasensitive and selective in presence of Fe3+ (>0.04 μM) in neutral aqueous environments. The two fluorescence bands of the C-dots were attributed to different surface states that may produce different fluorescent signal responses to external physical or chemical stimuli.
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