Gel-like Carbon Dots: Characterization and their Potential Applications

Yiqun Zhou, Alexandra Desserre, Shiv K. Sharma, Shanghao Li, M. Hensley Marksberry, Charles Chusuei, Patricia L. Blackwelder, Roger Leblanc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Highly photoluminescent gel-like carbon dots (G-CDs) were successfully synthesized for the first time by a rapid one-step solvothermal synthesis approach with citric acid and 1,2-ethylenediamine as the precursors. Their gel-like nature was revealed by the Tyndall and coagulation effects, which were elucidated by a negative ζ potential value. The influences of temperature on the properties and sizes of these G-CDs were analyzed, and the best method for a maximum quantum yield was identified. The resulting products emitted blue photoluminescence under UV light (λ=365nm) and a gradient of color under regular light. In addition, the UV/Vis absorption and fluorescence emission spectra of the G-CDs indicated that those synthesized at 160°C exhibited the highest fluorescence quantum yield (33%). Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy measurements were performed, and a higher temperature of formation resulted in smaller G-CDs. Furthermore, band shifts in the UV/Vis and fluorescence spectra and sequential changes in the quantum yield values and ζ potentials in addition to elemental compositional changes as determined by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy were monitored throughout the formation process of the G-CDs. As to applications, G-CDs were prepared as an invisible ink for printers, which exhibited the applicability of G-CDs in daily life and military activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Carbon dots
  • Gels
  • Invisible inks
  • Photoluminescence
  • Quantum dots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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