A fluorescence-electrochemical study of carbon nanodots (CNDs) in bio- and photoelectronic applications and energy gap investigation†
Carbon nanodots (CNDs) have attracted great attention due to their superior solubility, biocompatibility, tunable photoluminescence, and opto-electronic properties. This work describes a new fluorescence-based spectroelectrochemistry approach to simultaneously study the photoluminescence and wavelength dependent photocurrent of microwave synthesized CNDs. The fluorescence of CNDs shows selective quenching upon a reversible redox couple, ferricyanide/ferrocyanide, reaction during cyclic voltammetry. The CND modified gold slide electrode demonstrates wavelength dependent photocurrent generation during the fluorescence-electrochemical study, suggesting the potential application of CNDs in photoelectronics. UV-Vis absorption and electrochemistry are used to quantify the energy gap of the CNDs, and then to calibrate a Hückel model for CNDs’ electronic energy levels. The Hückel (or tight binding) model treatment of an individual CND as a molecule combines the conjugated π states (CC) with the functional groups (CO, C–O, and COOH) associated with the surface electronic states. This experimental and theoretical investigation of CNDs provides a new perspective on the optoelectronic properties of CNDs and should aid in their development for practical use in biomedicine, chemical sensing, and photoelectric devices.