Red-green-blue fluorescent hollow carbon nanoparticles isolated from chromatographic fractions for cellular imaging†
An as-synthesised hollow carbon nanoparticle (HC-NP) sample has been proved to be a relatively complex mixture, and its complexity can be reduced significantly by high-performance liquid chromatography. An unprecedented reduction in such complexity can reveal fractions of HC-NP with unique luminescence properties. While the UV-vis absorption profile for the HC-NP mixture is featureless, the HC-NP fractions do possess unique absorption bands and specific emission wavelengths. The HC-NP fractions are fully anatomised by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry, displaying their fragmentation mass ion features. The shell thickness and crystal lattices of the selected HC-NP fractions are determined as 6.13, 8.31, 2.22, and 8.66 nm, and 0.37, 0.35, 0.33, and 0.32 nm by transmission electron microscopy, respectively. The fractionated HC-NP show profound differences in emission quantum yield, allowing for brighter HC-NP to be isolated from an apparent low quantum yield mixture. Finally, red, green and blue emissive HC-NP are isolated from the as-synthesised HC-NP sample. They show good photostability and have been demonstrated to be excellent probes for cellular imaging.