Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2021, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (10): 2005004.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB202005004

• ARTICLE • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Toward the Neutralization of Carbon Dots Prepared by Mixed Acid Reflux

Ning Feng1,2, Hongguang Li1,*(), Jingcheng Hao1,*()   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Colloid and Interface Chemistry, School of Chemistry and Engineering, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, China
    2 China Research Institute of Daily Chemical Industry, Taiyuan 030000, China
  • Received:2020-05-05 Accepted:2020-06-05 Published:2020-06-11
  • Contact: Hongguang Li,Jingcheng Hao;
  • About author:Email: (J.H.), Tel.: +86-531-88363963 (J.H.)
    Email: (H.L.)
  • Supported by:
    the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21875129)


Carbon dots (C dots) are relatively novel carbon nanomaterials that have attracted significant interest due to their unique photoluminescence, good biocompatibility, and stability. The preparation methods of C dots was usually summarized into "top-down" and "bottom-up", and mixed acid reflux is a top-down strategy that can be used to synthesize C dots, during which neutralization is a necessary step that can significantly influence the properties and potential applications of the final product. Previously, this research area mainly focused on tuning the properties of C dots by changing the starting materials and/or varying the reaction conditions; the influence of the reagents used during neutralization has been largely ignored. As the previously reported C dots prepared by mixed acid reflux were obtained from different starting materials under varied conditions, a meaningful comparison is difficult. Herein, yellow-emitting C dots were prepared by mixed acid-refluxing a carbon-rich material derived from fullerene carbon soot. For the same batch of as-prepared C dots, the influences of four reagents, i.e., NaOH, Na2CO3, K2CO3, and NH3·H2O, during neutralization on the structures and photoluminescence of the resulting C dots were investigated in detail. The results of thermogravimetric analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy clearly showed that the reagent used during neutralization can affect the degree of dissociation of the acidic functional groups on the C dots. This is further supported by examination of the C dot/surfactant mixtures where subtle changes in the phase behavior were observed. Structural changes of the C dots cause variations in their surface states, ultimately altering the optical characteristics, including UV-vis absorption and fluorescence. Among the treated C dots, the sample prepared with Na2CO3 showed the strongest emission under the same excitation wavelength, while that prepared with NH3·H2O exhibited a distinct red shift (~8 nm) in the emission curve. The results presented herein provide clear evidence that neutralization reagent selection is important for optimizing the properties of the resulting C dots obtained by mixed acid reflux. In addition, the photoluminescence of the C dots can be influenced by their counterions, providing a novel method for tuning the properties of C dots while explaining their behavior in saline solutions. In short, the basicity of the neutralizing reagent and the type of counterions affect the structure of the C dots surface, which brings different performances. This work reminds researchers that it is necessary to use the type of neutralizing reagent as an experimental condition when preparing C dots in the future.

Key words: Carbon nanomaterial, Carbon dot, Mixed Acid reflux, Photoluminescence, Top-down, Neutralization, Phase behavior