Optical and electrochemical tuning of hydrothermally synthesized nitrogen-doped carbon dots†
Carbon dots (CDs) are a rapidly progressing class of nanomaterial which show promise towards applications in solar energy conversion due to their low toxicity, favorable electrochemical properties, and tunability. In recent years there have been a number of reported CD syntheses, both top-down and bottom-up methods, producing a diverse range of CDs with intrinsic properties dependent on the starting materials and utilized dopants. This work presents a citrate buffer-facilitated synthesis of nitrogen-doped carbon dots (NCD) and explores the impact of urea concentration on observed electrochemical and optical properties. Optical absorbance and quantum yield of NCDs were found to increase with the dopant concentrations present in the hydrothermal reaction mixture. Electrochemical analysis demonstrates that increased nitrogen content results in the shifting of carbon dot oxidation potentials without the need of post-synthesis surface modifications. Over the range of molar ratios of dopant-to-citrate tested, the oxidation potentials of NCDs shifted up to 150 mV towards more negative potentials. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirms the addition of pyrrolic and pyridinic nitrogen at different levels in different batches of NCDs, which are likely the source of the observed changes.