Carbon quantum dots and their biomedical and therapeutic applications: a review
In recent years, nano carbon quantum dots (CQDs) have received increasing attention due to their properties such as small size, fluorescence emission, chemical stability, water solubility, easy synthesis, and the possibility of functionalization. CQDs are fluorescent 0D carbon nanostructures with sizes below 10 nm. The fluorescence in CQDs originates from two sources, the fluorescence emission from bandgap transitions of conjugated π-domains and fluorescence from surface defects. The CQDs can emit fluorescence in the near-infrared (NIR) spectral region which makes them appropriate for biomedical applications. The fluorescence in these structures can be tuned with respect to the excitation wavelength. The CQDs have found applications in different areas such as biomedicine, photocatalysis, photosensors, solar energy conversion, light emitting diodes (LEDs), etc. The biomedical applications of CQDs include bioimaging, drug delivery, gene delivery, and cancer therapy. The fluorescent CQDs have low toxicity and other exceptional physicochemical properties in comparison to heavy metals semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) which make them superior candidates for biomedical applications. In this review, the synthesis routes and optical properties of the CQDs are clarified and recent advances in CQDs biomedical applications in bioimaging (in vivo and in vitro), drug delivery, cancer therapy, their potential to pass blood–brain barrier (BBB), and gene delivery are discussed.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2019 International Open Access Week Collection