Sustainable synthesis of bright green fluorescent carbon quantum dots from lignin for highly sensitive detection of Fe3+ ions

Lingli Zhu, Dekui Shen*, Qian Liu, Chunfei Wu, Sai Gu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Biomass transformation into high-value carbon nanomaterials plays a dual role of easing the energy material crisis and reasonable disposal of waste. Here, we employed biomass lignin as carbon source to synthesize fluorescent carbon quantum dots (CQDs) through a facile two-step method. The preparation condition is optimized at 0.3 g of acid additive and 200 ℃, 16 h of hydrothermal treatment. The resultant CQDs with the average diameter of 4.86 nm and high quantum yield of 23.68% are composed of carbon cores and surface functional groups, exhibiting the maximum green emission wavelength of 476 nm. The formation mechanism involves acid dissociation of lignin in the first step, and then the aromatic refusion of lignin fragments. The CQDs show great advantages as fluorescent nanoprobe for metal ion detection, which present an apparent and selective fluorescence quenching effect on Fe3+. This CQD nanoprobe has a highly sensitive response to Fe3+ ions in the concentration of 0 ~ 300 μM with detection limit of 0.77 μM. The utilization of renewable biomass lignin in this study not only opens the avenue of the sustainable, cost-effective and mass production of CQDs, but also provides a novel alternative nanoprobe for sensing field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number150526
JournalApplied Surface Science
Early online date05 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51676047 and 51861145102 ) and the Scientific Research Foundation of Graduate School of Southeast University, China (YBPY2109).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Carbon quantum dots
  • Formation mechanism
  • Green synthesis
  • Lignin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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