Ligand Mediated, Spatially Confined Carbonization of Biomass Forming High-Performance Colloidal Carbon Dots

Dechao Chen, Muhammad Usman Zia, Fan Yang, Yuting Wang, Frederic D. L. Leusch, Nam Trung Nguyen, Wei Zhang, Yongsheng Gao, Dongyuan Zhao, Colin L. Raston, Qin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Owing to their humble chemical composition, carbon dots (CDs) can be readily synthesized from biomass, transforming waste into luminescent nanomaterials. In reforming biomass into CDs, the choice of solvent plays a critical role in bottom-up degradation, emulsion formation, surface structuring, and the physiochemical and optical properties of the CDs. However, there is a lack of understanding on the effect of solvents, particularly in the context of solvent-dispersed CDs that are of interest to optoelectronics applications. Here, a spatially confined carbonization of laminarin using oleylamine (OLA) as the solvent, exploiting ligand-carbon interactions, resulted in uniform (3.6 ± 1.5 nm) colloidal CDs exhibiting single crystallinity. Uniquely, the OLA-capped CDs show distinctive multiple emissions from blue to green and red simultaneously under UV excitation, demonstrating the intricate electron transfer and trapping from carbon core/functional groups to surface bound-ligand multiple emissions. The OLA-CDs can be stably dispersed in various solvents and facilely fabricated into thin-film devices. This work establishes the versatility and tunability of ligand-induced, spatially confined carbonization in forming colloidal CDs for optoelectronic devices from crude biomass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11756–11768
Number of pages13
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number32
Early online date14 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2023


  • biomass conversion
  • carbon dots
  • colloidal synthesis
  • ligand−surface electron transfer
  • spatially confined carbonization


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