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Facile synthesis of N-rich carbon quantum dots from porphyrins as efficient probes for bioimaging and biosensing in living cells

Authors Wu FS, Su HF, Wang K, Wong W, Zhu XJ

Received 24 July 2017

Accepted for publication 29 August 2017

Published 10 October 2017 Volume 2017:12 Pages 7375—7391


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas Webster

Fengshou Wu,1,2,* Huifang Su,3,* Kai Wang,1 Wai-Kwok Wong,2 Xunjin Zhu2

1Key Laboratory for Green Chemical Process of the Ministry of Education, School of Chemical Engineering and Pharmacy, Wuhan Institute of Technology, Wuhan, 2Department of Chemistry and Institute of Advanced Materials, HKBU Institute of Research and Continuing Education (Shenzhen), Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, 3Department of Medical Oncology, Sun Yet-Sen University Cancer Center, State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Collaborative Innovation Center for Cancer Medicine, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Abstract: N-rich metal-free and metal-doped carbon quantum dots (CQDs) have been prepared through one-step hydrothermal method using tetraphenylporphyrin or its transition metal (Pd or Pt) complex as precursor. The structures and morphology of the as-prepared nanoparticles were analyzed by X-ray diffraction, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and Fourier transform infrared spectra. Three kinds of nanocomposites show similar structures except for the presence of metal ions in Pd-CQDs and Pt-CQDs indicated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. All of them display bright blue emission upon exposure to ultraviolet irradiation. The CQDs exhibit typical excitation-dependent emission behavior, with the emission quantum yield of 10.1%, 17.8%, and 15.2% for CQDs, Pd-CQDs, and Pt-CQDs, respectively. Moreover, the CQDs, Pd-CQDs, and Pt-CQDs could serve as fluorescent probes for the specific and sensitive detection of Fe3+ ions in aqueous solution. The low cytotoxicity of CQDs is demonstrated by MTT assay against HeLa cells. Therefore, the CQDs can be used as efficient probes for cellular multicolor imaging and fluorescence sensors for the detection of Fe3+ ions due to their low toxicity, excellent biocompatibility, and low detection limits. This work provides a new route to synthesize highly luminescent N-rich metal-free or metal-doped CQDs for multifunctional applications.

Keywords: carbon quantum dots, porphyrin, biosensing, bioimaging, Fe3+

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