Tunable fluorescent carbon dots from biowaste as fluorescence ink and imaging human normal and cancer cells

Environ Res. 2022 Mar;204(Pt D):112365. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112365. Epub 2021 Nov 9.


Growing global biowaste and its environmental issues challenge the need for converting biowastes into a beneficial product. Among the biowaste, here kiwi fruit (Actinidia Deliciosa) peels are considered for the preparation of carbon dots (CDs). Using a green one-pot hydrothermal-carbonization method, kiwi fruit peels were effectively converted into valuable kiwi fruit peel carbon dots (KFP-CDs). The morphology, physio-chemical and optical properties of as-synthesized KFP-CDs were analyzed using various analytical techniques such as X-ray powder diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, field emission scanning electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Ultraviolet-visible, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The KFP-CDs revealed a homogeneous spherical shape, monodispersed with an average size of 5 nm. The characterization confirms that KFP-CDs have functional groups such as -CN, -COOH, and -OH which are responsible for the easy dispersion of KFP-CDs in aqueous media. Without any preprocessing, KFP-CDs exhibit strong fluorescence upon exposure to UV light. Further, KFP-CDs displayed excitation-dependent fluorescence emission with a good quantum yield of about 18%. Thus by considering the excellent properties of KFP-CDs, KFP-CDs were used as fluorescent ink for drawing and writing without any capping/passivation agent. The pictures and words were instantaneously viewed when exposed to UV light. In addition, KFP-CDs tested for cell imaging in four human cell lines (normal and cancer cells) bestowed excellent biocompatibility and low cytotoxicity, which is important for the safe and long-term development of cellular imaging. The findings imply that KFP-CDs can be utilized as a cell labeling agent for mesenchymal stem cells, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer cells in vitro imaging. Thus, these observations revealed that investigating sustainable resource-based CDs can open up new avenues for tackling environmental issues.

Keywords: Carbon dots; Cellular imaging; Fluorescence ink; Fluorescent probe; Hydrothermal route; Kiwi fruit peel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Ink
  • Neoplasms*
  • Photoelectron Spectroscopy
  • Quantum Dots* / chemistry
  • Quantum Dots* / toxicity
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Carbon