Synthesis of Carbon Dots and their Application as Turn Off–On Fluorescent Sensor for Mercury (II) and Glutathione

  • 16 Accesses


In this paper, we present a new method for the detection of mercury (II) and glutathione using carbon dots as fluorescent sensor. The synthesized carbon dots have the advantages of simple manipulation, low cost and the high fluorescence quantum yield of them which was22.79%. The combination of mercury (II) and carbon dots caused the turn off of carbon dots fluorescence. With the reaction between mercury (II) and glutathione, the carbon dots were released and the fluorescence was turned on when the glutathione added. According to this, the carbon dots could be developed to detect mercury (II) and glutathione specifically, and the detection limit of mercury (II) is as low as 0.41 μM.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10


  1. 1.

    Tan HL, Zhang YQ, Chen Y (2011) Detection of mercury ions (Hg2+) in urine using a terbium chelate fluorescent probe. Sensors Actuators B Chem 156:120–125.

  2. 2.

    Ciedziel JV (2004) Gerstenberger, Shawn, determination of total mercury in human hair and animal fur by combustion atomic absorption spectrometry. Talanta. 64:918–921.

  3. 3.

    H.N. Kim, W.X. Ren, J.S. Kim, Fluorescent and colorimetric sensors for detection of lead, cadmium, and mercury ions, J Chem Soc Rev 41 (2012) 3210–3244.

  4. 4.

    Milic SZ, Potkonjak NI, Gorjanovic SZ, Veljovic-Jovanovic SD, Pastor FT, Suznjevic DZ (2011) A polarographic study of chlorogenic acid and its interaction with some heavy metal ions. Electroanalysis 23:2935–2940.

  5. 5.

    Anandhakumar S, Mathiyarasu J, Phani KLN (2012) Anodic stripping voltammetric detection of mercury (II) using au-PEDOT modified carbon paste electrode. Anal Methods 4:2486–2489.

  6. 6.

    Wang GL, Zhu XY, Jiao HJ, Dong YM, Li ZJ (2011) Ultrasensitive and dual functional colorimetric sensors for mercury (II) ions and hydrogen peroxide based on catalytic reduction property of silver nanoparticles. Biosens Bioelectron 3:337–342.

  7. 7.

    Page LE, Zhang X, Jawaid AM, Snee PT (2011) Detection of toxic mercury ions using a ratiometric CdSe/ZnS nanocrystal sensor. Chem Commun 47:7773–7775.

  8. 8.

    Yan X, Song Y, Zhu C, Song J, Du D, Su X, Lin Y (2016) Graphene quantum dot-MnO2nanosheet based optical sensing platform: a sensitive fluorescence "turn off-on" nanosensor for glutathione detection and intracellular imaging. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces 8(34):21990–21996.

  9. 9.

    Dresler S, Wójcik M, Bednarek W, Hanaka A, Tukiendorf A (2015) The effect of silicon on maize growth under cadmium stress. Russ J Plant Physiol 62(1):86–92.

  10. 10.

    Yu Q, Xi H, Chen B, He M, Hu B (2017) In vitro study on antagonism mechanism of glutathione sodium selenite and mercuric chloride. Talanta 171:262–269.

  11. 11.

    Liao H, Liu G, Liu Y, Li R, Fu W, Hu L (2017) Aggregation-induced accelerating per-oxidase-like activity of gold nanoclusters and their applications for colorimetric Pb2+ detection. Chem Commun 00:1–3.

  12. 12.

    Harfield JC, Batchelor-McAuley C, Compton RG (2012) Electrochemical determination of glutathione: a review. Analyst 137(10):2285–2296.

  13. 13.

    Janes L, Lisjak K, Vanzo A (2010) Determination of glutathione content in grape juice and wine by high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection. Anal Chem Acta 674(2):239–242.

  14. 14.

    Tang J, Kong B, Wang Y, Xu M, Wang Y, Wu H, Zheng G (2013) Photoelectrochemical detection of glutathione by IrO2-hemin-TiO2 nanowire arrays. Nano Lett 13(11):5350–5354.

  15. 15.

    Detsri E, Seeharaj P (2017) Colorimetric detection of glutathione based on phthalic acid assisted synthesis of silver nanoparticles. Coll. Surf. A. 533:125–132.

  16. 16.

    Xu HH, Deng HH, Lin XQ, Wu YY, Lin XL, Peng HP, Liu AL, Xia XH, Chen W (2017) Colorimetric glutathione assay based on the peroxidase-like activity of a nanocomposite consisting of platinum nanoparticles and grapheme oxide. Microchom Acta 184:3945–3951.

  17. 17.

    Yuan B, Zeng X, Xu C, Liu L, Ma Y, Zhang D, Fan Y (2013) Electrochemical modification of graphene oxide bearing different types of oxygen functional species for the electro-catalytic oxidation of reduced glutathione. Sens Actuators B-Chem 184:15–20.

  18. 18.

    Baker SN, Baker GA (2010) Luminescent carbon nanodots: emergent nanolights. Angew Chem Int Ed 49:6726–6744.

  19. 19.

    Li H, Kang Z, Liu Y et al (2012) Carbon nanodots: synthesis, properties and applications. J Mater Chem 22:24230–24253.

  20. 20.

    Zhu SJ, Meng QN, Wang L, Zhang JH, Song YB, Jin H, Zhang K, Sun HC, Wang HY, Yang B (2013) Highly photoluminescent carbon dots for multicolor patterning sensors, and bioimaging. Angew Chem Int Ed 52:3953–3957.

  21. 21.

    Liu Q, Guo BD, Rao ZY, Zhang BH, Gong JR (2013) Strong two-photon-induced fluorescence from photostable, biocompatible nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dots for cellular and deep-tissue imaging. Nano Lett 13:2436–2441.

  22. 22.

    Jiang YL, Wei G, Zhang WJ, Wang ZY, Cheng YX, Dai ZH (2016) Solid phase reaction method for preparation of carbon dots and multi-purpose applications. Sensors Actuators B Chem 234:15–20.

  23. 23.

    Stephan O, Ajayan PM, Colliex C, Redlich P, Lambet JM, Bernier P, Lefin P (1994) Doping graphitic and carbon nanotube structures with boron and nitrogen. Science. 266(25191):1683–1685.

  24. 24.

    Bourlinos BB, Bakandritsos A, Kouloumpis A, Gournis D, Krysmann M, Giannelis EP, Polakova K, Safarova K, Hola K, Zboril R (2012) Gd(III)-doped carbon dots as a dual fluorescent-MRI probe. J Mater Chem 22(44):23327–23330.

  25. 25.

    Ray S, Saha A, Jana NR (2009) Fluorescent carbon nanoparticles: synthesis, characterization, and bioimaging application. J Phys Chem C 113:18546–18551.

  26. 26.

    Li H, He X, Kang Z (2010) Water-soluble fluorescent carbon quantum dots and photocatalyst design. Angew Chem Int Ed 49:4430–4434.

  27. 27.

    Xiao W, Li Y, Hu C (2017) Melanin-originated carbonaceous dots for triple negative breast cancer diagnosis by fluorescence and photoacoustic dual-mode imaging. J Colloid Interface Sci 497:226–232.

  28. 28.

    Ruan S, Chen J, Cun X et al (2015) Noninvasive in vivo diagnosis of brain glioma using RGD-decorated fluorescent carbonaceous nanospheres. J. Biomed. Nanotechnol 11:2148–2157.

  29. 29.

    Gong X, Lu W, Paau MC (2015) Facile synthesis of nitrogen-doped carbon dots for Fe(3+) sensing and cellular imaging. Anal Chim Acta 861:74–84.

  30. 30.

    Lin Y, Chapman R, Stevens MM (2015) Integrative self-assembly of graphene quantum dots and biopolymers into a versatile biosensing toolkit. Adv Funct Mater 25:3183–3192.

  31. 31.

    Ge G, Yao W, Hao R, Yang J, Fu G (2018) On-off-on fluorescent nanosensor for Fe3+, detection and cancer/normal cell differentiation via silicon-doped carbon quantum dots. Carbon. 134:232–243.

  32. 32.

    Aaron S, Pandey R, Chusuei CC, Ghosh K, Patel R, Wanekaya A (2017) Fabrication characterization and potential applications of carbon nanoparticles in the detection of heavy metal ions in aqueous media. Carbon. 127:122–130.

  33. 33.

    Kundu A, Lee J, Park B, Ray C, Sankar KV, Kim WS (2017) Facile approach to synthesize highly fluorescent multicolor emissive carbon dots via surface functionalization for cellular imaging. J Colloid Interf Sci 513:505–514.

  34. 34.

    Wang C, Hu T, Wen Z, Zhou J, Wang X, Wu Q (2018) Concentration-dependent color tunability of nitrogen-doped carbon dots and their application for iron(iii) detection and multicolor bioimaging. J. Colloid Interf Sci. 521:33–41.

  35. 35.

    Liu W, Diao H, Chang H, Wang H, Li T, Wei W (2017) Green synthesis of carbon dots from rose-heart radish and application for Fe3+ detection and cell imaging. Sensors Actuators B Chem 241:190–198.

  36. 36.

    Li L, Wang X, Fu Z, Cui F (2017) One-step hydrothermal synthesis of nitrogen- and sulfur-co-doped carbon dots from ginkgo leaves and application in biology. Mater Lett 196:300–303.

  37. 37.

    Atchudan R, Edison TNJI, Aseer KR, Perumal S, Karthik N, Lee YR (2017) Highly fluorescent nitrogen-doped carbon dots derived from, phyllanthus acidus, utilized as a fluorescent probe for label-free selective detection of Fe3+, ions, live cell imaging and fluorescent ink. Biosens Bioelectron 99:303–311.

Download references


This work is financed by the National Natural Science Foundation of China-Union Foundation of Henan (U1704170), Key Programs of Henan for Science and Technology Development (182102310103 and 182102310848) and Key Scientific Research Project of Henan Ministry of Education (20A610005).

Author information

Correspondence to Fengling Cui.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cai, L., Fu, Z. & Cui, F. Synthesis of Carbon Dots and their Application as Turn Off–On Fluorescent Sensor for Mercury (II) and Glutathione. J Fluoresc (2020) doi:10.1007/s10895-019-02454-5

Download citation


  • Carbon dots
  • Fluorescence
  • Hg2+sensing
  • Glutathione sensing