A review of fluorescent carbon dots, their synthesis, physical and chemical characteristics, and applications

Mychele Jorns, Dimitri Pappas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Carbon dots (CDs) are a particularly useful type of fluorescent nanoparticle that demon-strate biocompatibility, resistance to photobleaching, as well as diversity in composition and characteristics amongst the different types available. There are two main morphologies of CDs: Disk-shaped with 1–3 stacked sheets of aromatic carbon rings and quasi-spherical with a core-shell arrangement having crystalline and amorphous properties. They can be synthesized from various potentially environmentally friendly methods including hydrothermal carbonization, microwaving, pyrolysis or combustion, and are then purified via one or more methods. CDs can have either excitation wavelength-dependent or-independent emission with each having their own benefits in microscopic fluorescent imaging. Some CDs have an affinity for a particular cell type, organelle or chemical. This property allows the CDs to be used as sensors in a biological environment and can even provide quantitative information if the quenching or intensity of their fluorescence is dependent on the concentration of the analyte. In addition to fluorescent imaging, CDs can also be used for other applications including drug delivery, quality control, photodynamic therapy, and photocatalysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1448
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Bioimaging
  • Carbon dots
  • Carbon quantum dots
  • Fluorescence
  • Nanoparticles
  • Sensing
  • Super-resolution


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