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 The dominant role of surface functionalization in carbon dots’ photo-activated antibacterial activity

Authors Abu Rabe DI, Al Awak MM, Yang F, Okonjo PA, Dong X, Teisl LR, Wang P, Tang Y, Pan N, Sun YP, Yang L

Received 5 January 2019

Accepted for publication 26 February 2019

Published 23 April 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 2655—2665


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Thomas J. Webster

Dina I Abu Rabe,1 Mohamad M Al Awak,1 Fan Yang,2 Peter A Okonjo,1 Xiuli Dong,1 Lindsay R Teisl,2 Ping Wang,2 Yongan Tang,3 Nengyu Pan,2 Ya-Ping Sun,2 Liju Yang1

1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC 27707, USA; 2Department of Chemistry and Laboratory for Emerging Materials and Technology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA; 3Department of Mathematics and Physics, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC 27707, USA

Background: Carbon dots (CDots) have recently been demonstrated their effective visible light-activated antimicrobial activities toward bacteria. This study was to evaluate and understand the roles of the surface functionalities in governing the antimicrobial activity of CDots.
Methods: Using the laboratory model bacteria Bacillus subtilis, the photo-activated antimicrobial activities of three groups of CDots with specifically selected different surface functionalization moieties were evaluated and compared. The first group consisting of CDots with surface functionalization by 2,2-(ethylenedioxy)bis(ethylamine) (EDA) vs. 3-ethoxypropylamine (EPA), was evaluated to determine the effect of different terminal groups/charges on their photo-activated antibacterial activities. The second group consisting of CDots functionalized with oligomeric polyethylenimine (PEI) and those prepared by the carbonization of PEI – citric acid mixture, was to evaluate the effects of dot surface charges vs. fluorescent quantum yields on their antimicrobial activities. The third group consisting of CDots functionalized with PEI of 1,200 vs. 600 in average molecular weight was evaluated for the effect of molecular weight of surface passivation molecular on their antimicrobial activities.
Results: The results indicated the EDA-CDots in the first group was more effective and was attributed to the positive charges from the protonation of the amino groups (–NH2) being more favorable to interactions with bacterial cells. The evaluation of the second group CDots suggested the same surface charge effect dominating the antibacterial performance over the fluorescent quantum yields. The evaluation of the third group CDots functionalized with PEI of 1,200 vs. 600 in average molecular weight, indicated the latter was significantly more effective.
Conclusions: The results from this study highlighted the dominant role of surface functionalities in governing CDots’ light activated antimicrobial activity and should have significant implications to the further design and development of CDots as a new class of visible light-activated antibacterial agents.

Keywords: carbon dots, antimicrobial, bacteria, photo-activated, surface functionalization

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