Formation of carbon quantum dots via hydrothermal carbonization: Investigate the effect of precursors

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Carbon quantum dots (CQDs) are nanomaterials with a particle size range of 2 to 10 nm. CQDs have a wide range of applications such as medical diagnostics, bio-imaging, biosensors, coatings, solar cells, and photocatalysis. Although the effect of various experimental parameters, such as the synthesis method, reaction time, etc., have been investigated, the effect of different feedstocks on CQDs has not been studied yet. In this study, CQDs were synthesized from hydrox-ymethylfurfural, furfural, and microcrystalline cellulose via hydrothermal carbonization at 220◦ C for 30 min of residence time. The produced CQDs showed green luminescence behavior under the short-wavelength UV light. Furthermore, the optical properties of CQDs were investigated using ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy and emission spectrophotometer, while the morphology and chemical bonds of CQDs were investigated using transmission electron microscopy and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, respectively. Results showed that all CQDs produced from various precursors have absorption and emission properties but these optical properties are highly dependent on the type of precursor. For instance, the mean particle sizes were 6.36 ± 0.54, 5.35 ± 0.56, and 3.94 ± 0.60 nm for the synthesized CQDs from microcrystalline cellulose, hydroxymethylfurfural, and furfural, respectively, which appeared to have similar trends in emission intensities. In addition, the synthesized CQDs experienced different functionality (e.g., C=O, O-H, C-O) resulting in different absorption behavior.