N, P-co-doped carbon dots as a dual-mode colorimetric/ratiometric fluorescent sensor for formaldehyde and cell imaging via an aminal reaction-induced aggregation process


Novel colorimetric and ratiometric fluorometric dual-mode N, P-co-doped carbon nanodots, BPEI-CDs, for highly sensitive and selective detection of formaldehyde (FA) were successfully prepared from N-(phosphonomethyl)iminodiacetic acid (PMIDA) and branched polyethyleneimine (BPEI). The treatment of FA caused a remarkable linear enhancement of ratiometric fluorescence (F501 nm/F408 nm) in a wide range of 0–40 μM with a detection limit (LOD) of 0.47 μM (3σ/k), along with distinct color changes from colorless to light yellow. Mechanistic study shows that this electron-rich system, formed by the cooperative roles of N and P, promoted the FA-induced Schiff bases formation reaction, which contributed to the CD aggregation-induced emission (AIE) “turn-on” response and enhancement of π-conjugation-induced bathochromic behaviors. Furthermore, N, P-co-doped BPEI-CDs were successfully applied to the determination of FA in bean sprout samples. Using the standard addition method, the recoveries ranged from 96.9 to 101.8%, and the relative standard deviation (RSD) was in the range 2.23 to 3.21%. The application for intracellular FA sensing further verified that this novel nanoprobe may offer a new venue for the design of simple, low-cost, and sensitive biosensors.

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We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from funding for school-level research projects of Yancheng Institute of Technology (xjr2019021, xjr2019020) and the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK20191041). This work also was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 21671101).

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Correspondence to Xin Zhang or Su Jing.

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Qu, J., Zhang, X., Liu, Y. et al. N, P-co-doped carbon dots as a dual-mode colorimetric/ratiometric fluorescent sensor for formaldehyde and cell imaging via an aminal reaction-induced aggregation process. Microchim Acta 187, 355 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00604-020-04337-0

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  • Dual-mode sensor
  • Colorimetry/ratiometric fluorescence
  • N, P-co-doped carbon dots
  • Formaldehyde
  • Cell imaging