High-performance liquid chromatographic and mass spectrometric analysis of fluorescent carbon nanodots

Xiaojuan Gong, Qin Hu, Man Chin Paau, Yan Zhang, Lei Zhang, Shaomin Shuang, Chuan Dong*, Martin M F CHOI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Amino/hydroxyl-functionalized fluorescent carbon nanodots (C-NanoD) are conveniently synthesized based on hydrothermal carbonization of chitosan at 180 °C. Dialysis membranes with small cut-off masses (500-1000 Da) were found useful for removing the side-products and low molecular mass species to purify the C-NanoD product. Herein, reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) has been successfully applied to fractionate the C-NanoD product. The elution order of the C-NanoD species present in the sample follows approximately their core sizes from small to large. The separated C-NanoD fractions are collected and characterized by UV absorption spectroscopy, photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). All the C-NanoD fractions display a distinctive absorption band at 300 nm, attributing to the n→π* transition of CO bond. The PL spectra of the fractions display emission peaks at 400-415 nm which are slightly red-shifted with their increase in relative molecular masses. The C-NanoD fractions are fully anatomized by MALDI-TOF MS, displaying their fragmentation mass ion features. The core sizes of some selected C-NanoD are determined as 1.6, 1.8, 2.5, and 3.1 nm by TEM which are in consistent with their HPLC elution order. The findings highlight the virtues of RP-HPLC to fractionate and reveal the unique characteristics of individual C-NanoD species present in an as-synthesized C-NanoD product which may have potential applications in the fields of bioanalysis, bioimaging, catalysis, chemosensing, energy storage, and optoelectronics device.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-538
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Analytical separation
  • Carbon dots species
  • Chitosan


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