Highly Photostable Carbon Dots from Citric Acid for Bioimaging

Materials (Basel). 2022 Mar 24;15(7):2395. doi: 10.3390/ma15072395.


Bioimaging supported by nanoparticles requires low cost, highly emissive and photostable systems with low cytotoxicity. Carbon dots (C-dots) offer a possible solution, even if controlling their properties is not always straightforward, not to mention their potentially simple synthesis and the fact that they do not exhibit long-term photostability in general. In the present work, we synthesized two C-dots starting from citric acid and tris (hydroxymethyl)-aminomethane (tris) or arginine methyl ester dihydrochloride. Cellular uptake and bioimaging were tested in vitro using murine neuroblastoma and ovine fibroblast cells. The C-dots are highly biocompatible, and after 24 h of incubation with the cells, 100% viability was still observed. Furthermore, the C-dots synthesized using tris have an average dimension of 2 nm, a quantum yield of 37%, high photostability and a zeta potential (ζ) around -12 mV. These properties favor cellular uptake without damaging cells and allow for very effective bioimaging.

Keywords: bioimaging; carbon dots; cytotoxicity; photoluminescence.