Highly fluorescent Zn-doped carbon dots as Fenton reaction-based bio-sensors: an integrative experimental–theoretical consideration†
Heteroatom doped carbon dots (CDs), with high photoluminescence quantum yield (PLQY), are of keen interest in various applications such as chemical sensors, bio-imaging, electronics, and photovoltaics. Zinc, an important element assisting the electron-transfer process and an essential trace element for cells, is a promising metal dopant for CDs, which could potentially lead to multifunctional CDs. In this contribution, we report a single-step, high efficiency, hydrothermal method to synthesize Zn-doped carbon dots (Zn-CDs) with a superior PLQY. The PLQY and luminescence characteristic of Zn-CDs can be tuned by controlling the precursor ratio, and the surface oxidation in the CDs. Though a few studies have reported metal doped CDs with good PLQY, the as prepared Zn-Cds in the present method exhibited a PLQY up to 32.3%. To the best of our knowledge, there is no report regarding the facile preparation of single metal-doped CDs with a QY more than 30%. Another unique attribute of the Zn-CDs is the high monodispersity and the resultant highly robust excitation-independent luminescence that is stable over a broad range of pH values. Spectroscopic investigations indicated that the superior PLQY and luminescence of Zn-CDs are due to the heteroatom directed, oxidized carbon-based surface passivation. Furthermore, we developed a novel and sensitive biosensor for the detection of hydrogen peroxide and glucose leveraging the robust fluorescence properties of Zn-CDs. Under optimal conditions, Zn-CDs demonstrated high sensitivity and response to hydrogen peroxide and glucose over a wide range of concentrations, with a linear range of 10–80 μM and 5–100 μM, respectively, indicating their great potential as a fluorescent probe for chemical sensing.