Carbon source self-heating: ultrafast, energy-efficient and room temperature synthesis of highly fluorescent N, S-codoped carbon dots for quantitative detection of Fe(iii) ions in biological samples†
In recent years, photoluminescent (PL) carbon dots (CDs) have attracted enormous attention because of their many fascinating properties. However, the traditional synthesis routes of PL CDs usually suffer from relatively low quantum yields (QYs) and require complicated operation processes as well as lots of externally supplied energy. Herein, we report a room temperature, green, ultrafast and energy-efficient route for large scale synthesis of highly PL N, S-codoped CDs without any external energy supply. The N, S-codoped CDs are prepared through a novel carbon source self-heating strategy, using the sole precursor tetraethylenepentamine (TEPA) simultaneously as the carbon, nitrogen and heat source, triggered by the heat initiator sodium persulfate (Na2S2O8). The large amount of heat released from Na2S2O8-triggered oxidation of TEPA could effectively promote the spontaneous polymerization and carbonization of TEPA precursors themselves as well as the in situ co-doping of sulfur, which had marked synergistic effects on the fluorescence enhancement of CDs, eventually leading to the high-yield (58.0%) preparation of highly fluorescent N, S-codoped CDs (QY 26.4%) at room temperature within 2 min. Moreover, the fluorescence of N, S-codoped CDs could be selectively quenched by Fe3+ ions in the presence of EDTA, in an ultra-wide range of 0.2–600 μM, with a detection limit of 0.10 μM. Ultimately, the fluorescent nanoprobe was successfully used for the quantitative detection of Fe3+ in human serum samples, indicating its great potential for sensing and biomedical applications.