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  • Review Article
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A multifunctional chemical toolbox to engineer carbon dots for biomedical and energy applications

Abstract

Photoluminescent carbon nanoparticles, or carbon dots, are an emerging class of materials that has recently attracted considerable attention for biomedical and energy applications. They are defined by characteristic sizes of <10 nm, a carbon-based core and the possibility to add various functional groups at their surface for targeted applications. These nanomaterials possess many interesting physicochemical and optical properties, which include tunable light emission, dispersibility and low toxicity. In this Review, we categorize how chemical tools impact the properties of carbon dots. We look for pre- and postsynthetic approaches for the preparation of carbon dots and their derivatives or composites. We then showcase examples to correlate structure, composition and function and use them to discuss the future development of this class of nanomaterials.

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Fig. 1: Overview of synthetic approaches and applications of CDs.
Fig. 2: Overview of multicolour FL of CDs from bottom-up syntheses.
Fig. 3: Overview of postsynthetic approaches to tune multicolour FL of CDs.
Fig. 4: Overview of pre- and postsynthetic strategies for enhancing CD applicability in energy applications.
Fig. 5: Overview of pre- and postsynthetic strategies to enhance CD applicability in biomedical applications.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for support from the University of Trieste, INSTM, AXA Research Fund, the Italian Ministry of Education MIUR (cofin Prot. 2017PBXPN4), the Maria de Maeztu Units of Excellence Program from the Spanish State Research Agency (MDM‐2017‐0720) and the European Research Council (ERC-AdG-2019 no. 885323). We thank G. Graziano for helpful comments.

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Ðorđević, L., Arcudi, F., Cacioppo, M. et al. A multifunctional chemical toolbox to engineer carbon dots for biomedical and energy applications. Nat. Nanotechnol. 17, 112–130 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-01051-7

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