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Small. 2012 Jan 23;8(2):281-90. doi: 10.1002/smll.201101706. Epub 2011 Nov 18.

In vivo NIR fluorescence imaging, biodistribution, and toxicology of photoluminescent carbon dots produced from carbon nanotubes and graphite.

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Functional Nano & Soft Materials Laboratory (FUNSOM), Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Carbon-Based Functional Materials & Devices, Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, 215123 China.


Oxidization of carbon nanotubes by a mixed acid has been utilized as a standard method to functionalize carbon nanomaterials for years. Here, the products obtained from carbon nanotubes and graphite after a mixed-acid treatment are carefully studied. Nearly identical carbon dot (Cdot) products with diameters of 3-4 nm are produced using this approach from a variety of carbon starting materials, including single-walled carbon nanotubes, multiwalled carbon nanotubes, and graphite. These Cdots exhibit strong yellow fluorescence under UV irradiation and shifted emission peaks as the excitation wavelength is changed. In vivo fluorescence imaging with Cdots is then demonstrated in mouse experiments, by using varied excitation wavelengths including some in the near-infrared (NIR) region. Furthermore, in vivo biodistribution and toxicology of those Cdots in mice over different periods of time are studied; no noticeable signs of toxicity for Cdots to the treated animals are discovered. This work provides a facile method to synthesize Cdots as safe non-heavy-metal-containing fluorescent nanoprobes, promising for applications in biomedical imaging.


biodistribution; carbon quantum dots; fluorescence; in vivo imaging; toxicology

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