Carbon dots and their biomedical and biotechnological applications


  • Rahul Rajendra Kunkulol
  • Raghavendra L.S. Hallur
  • Vishnu Nanda Magare
  • Poojitha B. Sridhara Setty
  • Manjula Shantaram



Carbon dots, biosensing, bioimaging, carbon quantum dot, optical properties


Carbon dots, a recently discovered nanoparticle, have attracted significant attention due to their impressive fluorescent, chemical, mechanical, photostability, and biocompatibility properties. Carbon quantum dots (CQDs) are a novel form of nano-carbon whose use has recently surpassed semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) in terms of their many desirable properties. This is because CQDs are made up of carbon atoms rather than carbon molecules. This study clarifies the process of synthesis and optical characteristics of CQDs, as well as current breakthroughs in CQDs’ biological applications in bioimaging. This paper discusses the recent developments and achievements reached with CQDs, with a particular emphasis on their synthetic pathways, chemical and optical characteristics, and biological applications, as well as fresh perspectives on this fascinating and potentially fruitful topic of research.

Author Biographies

Rahul Rajendra Kunkulol

College of Biosciences and Technology, Pravara Institutes of Medical Sciences (Deemed to be University), Loni, 413736, Rahata Taluka, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India

Department of Pharmacology, Dr. Balasaheb Vikhe Patil Rural Medical College, Pravara Institutes of Medical Sciences (Deemed to be University), Loni, 413736, Rahata Taluka, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India

Raghavendra L.S. Hallur

College of Biosciences and Technology, Pravara Institutes of Medical Sciences (Deemed to be University), Loni, 413736, Rahata Taluka, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India

Vishnu Nanda Magare

College of Biosciences and Technology, Pravara Institutes of Medical Sciences (Deemed to be University), Loni, 413736, Rahata Taluka, Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra State, India

Poojitha B. Sridhara Setty

Department of Biotechnology, GM Institute of Technology, Davangere, 577006, Karnataka, India

Manjula Shantaram

A.J. Research Centre, A.J. Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kuntikana, Mangalore, 575 004, Karnataka, India


Bhattacharya, D., Mishra, M.K., De, G. Carbon dots from a single source exhibiting tunable luminescent colors through the modification of surface functional groups in Ormosil Films. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C. 2017; 121(50): 28106-28116.

Wang, Y., Hu, A. Carbon quantum dots: Synthesis, properties and applications. Journal of Materials Chemistry C. 2014; 2(34):6921.

Sun, S., Zhang, L., Jiang, K., Wu, A., Lin, H. Toward high-efficient red emissive carbon dots: Facile preparation, unique properties, and applications as multifunctional Theranostic agents. Chemistry of Materials. 2016;28(23):8659-8668.

Zhu, S., Song, Y., Zhao, X., Shao, J., Zhang, J., Yang, B. The photoluminescence mechanism in carbon dots (graphene quantum dots, carbon nanodots, and polymer dots): Current State and future perspective. Nano Research. 2015;8(2):355-381.

Zhang, X., Jiang, M., Niu, N., Chen, Z., Li, S., Liu. S., et al., Natural product derived carbon dots: From natural products to Functional Materials. ChemSusChem. 2017;11(1):11-24.

Liu, J.H., Wang, Y.W., Yan, G-H., Yang, F., Gao, H., Huang, Y., et al., Systematic toxicity evaluations of high-performance carbon “quantum’ dots. J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2019; 19(4): 2130-2137.

Liu, M.L., Chen, B.B., Li, C.M., Huang, C.Z. Carbon dots: synthesis, formation mechanism, fluorescence origin and sensing applications. Green Chem. 2019; 21 (3):449-471.

Ge, G., Li, L., Wang, D., Chen, M., Zeng, Z., Xiong, W., et al., Carbon dots: synthesis, properties and biomedical applications. J Mater Chem B. 2021; 9(33):6553-6575.

Lim, S.Y., Shen, W., Gao, Z. Carbon quantum dots and their applications. Chem Soc Rev. 2015; 44(1):362-81.

Molaei, M.J. A review on nanostructured carbon quantum dots and their applications in biotechnology, sensors, and chemiluminescence. Talanta. 2019; 196:456-478.

Cao, L.I., Meziani, M.J., Sahu, S., Sun, Y.P. Photoluminescence properties of graphene versus other carbon nanomaterials. Acc Chem Res. 2013; 46(1):171-180.

Wang, X., Yang, P., Feng, Q., Meng, T., Wei, J., Xu, C., et al., Green preparation of fluorescent carbon quantum dots from cyanobacteria for biological imaging. Polymers. 2019; 11(4):616.

Wang, Y., Hu, A. Carbon quantum dots: synthesis, properties and applications. J Mater Chem C. 2014; 2(34):6921-6939.

Ge, J., Lan, M., Zhou, B., Liu, W., Guo, L., Wang, H., et al., A graphene quantum dot photodynamic therapy agent with high singlet oxygen generation. Nat Commun. 2014;5(1): 4596.

15. Yang, T., Huang J-L., Wang Y-T., Zheng, A-Q., Shu, Y., Wang, J-H. B cyclodextrin decorated carbon dots serve as nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery and controlled release. Chem Nano Mat. 2019; 5(4):479-487.

Zheng, X.T., Ananthanarayanan, A., Luo, K.Q., Chen, P. Glowing graphene quantum dots and carbon dots: properties, syntheses, and biological applications. Small. 2015;11(14): 1620-1636.

Yang, S.T., Wang, X., Wang, H., Lu, F., Luo, P.G., Cao, L., et al., Carbon dots as nontoxic and high-performance fluorescence imaging agents. J Phys Chem C Nanomater Interfaces. 2009b;113(42):18110-18114.

Cao, L., Wang, X., Meziani, M.J., Lu. F., Wang, H., Luo, P.G., et al., Carbon dots for multiphoton bioimaging. J Am Chem Soc. 2007; 129(37):11318-11319.

Shereema, R.M., Sankar, V., Raghu, K.G., Rao, T.P., Shankar, S.S. One Step green Synthesis of Carbon Quantum Dots and its Application towards the Bioelectroanalytical and Biolabeling Studies. Electrochim Acta. 2015; 182:588-595.

Shi, W., Wang, Q., Long, Y., Cheng, Z., Chen, S., Zheng, H., et al., Carbon nanodots as peroxidase mimetics and their applications to glucose detection. Chem Commun (Camb). 2011; 47(23):6695-6697.

Zhao, H.X., Liu, L.Q., Liu, Z.D., Wang, Y., Zhao, X.J., Huang, C.Z. Highly selective detection of phosphate in very complicated matrices with an off-on fluorescent probe of Europium Adjusted carbon dots. Chem Commun (Camb). 2011; 47(9):2604-2606.

Li, H., Zhang, Y., Wang, L., Tian, J., Sun, X. Nucleic acid detection using carbon nanoparticles as a fluorescent sensing platform. Chem Commun (Camb). 2011; 47(3):961-963.

Zhu, A., Qu, Q., Shao, X., Kong, B., Tian, Y. Carbon-dot-based dual emission nanohybrid produces a ratiometric fluorescent sensor for in vivo imaging of cellular copper ions. Angew Chem. 2012; 124(29):7297-7301.

Wei, W., Xu, C., Ren, J., Xu, B., Qu, X. Sensing metal ions with ion selectivity of a crown ether and fluorescence resonance energy transfer between carbon dots and graphene. Chem Commun (Camb). 2012; 48(9):1284-1286.

Bhattacharya, S., Sarkar, R., Nandi, S., Porgador, A., Jelinek, R. Detection of reactive oxygen species by a carbon-dot-ascorbic acid hydrogel. Anal Chem. 2017; 89(1):830-836.

Lu, S., Li, G., Lv, Z., Qiu, N., Kong, W., Gong, P., et al., Facile and ultrasensitive fluorescence sensor platform for tumor invasive biomarker beta-glucuronidase detection and inhibitor evaluation with carbon quantum dots based on inner-filter effect. Biosens Bioelectron. 2016; 85:358-362.

Kong, B., Zhu, A., Ding, C., Zhao, X., Li, B., Tian, Y. Carbon dot-based inorganic-organic nanosystem for two-photon imaging and biosensing of pH variation in living Cells and tissues. Adv Mater. 2012; 24(43):5844-5848.

Li, F., Liu, C., Yang, J., Wang, Z., Liu, W., Tian, F. Mg/N double doping strategy to fabricate extremely high luminescent carbon dots for bioimaging. RSC Adv. 2014a; 4(7):3201-3205.

Wang, D.M., Lin, K.L., Huang, C.Z. Carbon dots-involved chemiluminescence: recent advances and developments. Luminescence. 2019a; 34(1):4-22.

Kour, R., Arya, S., Young, S-J., Gupta, V., Bandhoria, P., Khosla, A. Review-recent advances in carbon nanomaterials as electrochemical biosensors. J Electrochem Soc. 2020; 167(3):037555.

Campuzano, S., Yáñez-Sedeño, P., Pingarrón, J.M. Carbon dots and graphene quantum dots in electrochemical biosensing. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2019; 9(4):634.

Hoang, V.C., Dave, K., Gomes, V.G. Carbon quantum dot-based composites for energy storage and electrocatalysis: mechanism, applications and future prospects. Nano Energy. 2019; 66:104093.

Huang, C., Dong, H., Su, Y., Wu, Y., Narron, R., Yong, Q. Synthesis of carbon quantum dot nanoparticles derived from by products in bio-refinery process for cell imaging and in vivo bioimaging. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2019;9(3):387.

Mehta, V.N., Jha, S., Basu, H., Singhal, R.K., Kailasa, S.K. One-step hydrothermal approach to fabricate carbon dots from apple juice for imaging of mycobacterium and fungal cells. Sens Actuators B. 2015; 213:434-443.

Fan, H., Zhang, M., Bhandari, B., Yang, C.H. Food waste as a carbon source in carbon quantum dots technology and their applications in food safety detection. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2020; 95:86-96.

Chatzimitakos, T., Kasouni, A., Sygellou, L., Avgeropoulos, A., Troganis, A., Stalikas, C. Two of a kind but different: luminescent carbon quantum dots from citrus peels for iron and tartrazine sensing and cell imaging. Talanta. 2017;175: 305-312.

Li, X., Robinson, S.M., Gupta, A., Saha, K., Jiang, Z., Moyano, D.F., et al., Functional gold nanoparticles as potent antimicrobial agents against multi-drug-resistant bacteria. ACS Nano. 2014b; 8(10):10682-10686.

Liu, C., Zhang, P., Zhai, X., Tian, F., Li, W., Yang, J., et al., Nano-carrier for gene delivery and bioimaging based on carbon dots with PEI-passivation enhanced fluorescence. Biomaterials. 2012; 33(13):3604-3613.

Wu, X., Sun, S., Wang, Y., Zhu, J., Jiang, K., Leng, Y., et al., A fluorescent carbon-dots-based mitochondria-targetable nanoprobe for peroxynitrite sensing in living Cells. Biosens Bioelectron. 2017; 90:501-507.

Qie, X., Zan, M., Gui, P., Chen, H., Wang, Jingkai, Lin, K., et al., Design, synthesis, and application of carbon dots with synergistic antibacterial activity. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2022;10:894100.

Cui, L., Ren, X., Sun, M., Liu, H., Xia, L. Carbon dots: synthesis, properties and applications. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2021;11(12):3419.

Khayal, A., Dawane, V., Amin, M.A., Tirth, V., Yadav, V.K., Algahtani, A., et al., Advances in the methods for the synthesis of carbon dots and their emerging applications. Polymers. 2021; 13(18):3190.

Qu, D., Wang Xiayan, Bao, Y., Zaicheng, S. Recent advance of carbon dots in bio-related applications. J Phys Mater. 2020; 3(2):022003.

Koutsogiannis, P., Thomou, E., Stamatis, H., Gournis, D., Rudolf, P. Advances in fluorescent carbon dots for biomedical applications. Adv Phys X. 2020; 5(1):1758592.

Ding, H., Zhou, X.X., Wei, J. S., Li, X.B., Qin, B.T., Chen, X. B., et al., Carbon dots with red/near-infrared emissions and their intrinsic merits for biomedical applications. Carbon. 2020;167:322-344.

Wang, B., Li, J., Tang, Z., Yang, B., Lu, S. Near-infrared emissive carbon dots with 33.96% emission in aqueous solution for cellular sensing and light-emitting diodes. Sci Bull. 2019; 64(17):1285-1292.

Molaei, M.J. Carbon quantum dots and their biomedical and therapeutic applications: a review. RSC Adv. 2019;9(12): 6460-6481.

Chan, K.K., Yap, S.H.K., Yong, K.T. Biogreen synthesis of carbon dots for biotechnology and nanomedicine applications. Nano Micro Lett. 2018; 10(4):72.

Chaudhary, S., Umar, A., Bhasin, K.K., Singh, S. Applications of carbon dots in nanomedicine. J Biomed Nanotechnol. 2017; 13(6):591-637.




How to Cite

Rajendra Kunkulol R, L.S. Hallur R, Nanda Magare V, B. Sridhara Setty P, Shantaram M. Carbon dots and their biomedical and biotechnological applications. Biomedicine [Internet]. 2023 Nov. 8 [cited 2023 Dec. 2];43(5):1376-84. Available from:

Plum Analytics 

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>