Malic Acid Carbon Dots: From Super-resolution Live-Cell Imaging to Highly Efficient Separation

Bo Zhi, Yi Cui, Shengyang Wang, Benjamin P. Frank, Denise N. Williams, Richard P. Brown, Eric S. Melby, Robert J. Hamers, Zeev Rosenzweig, D. Howard Fairbrother, Galya Orr, Christy L. Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


As-synthesized malic acid carbon dots are found to possess photoblinking properties that are outstanding and superior compared to those of conventional dyes. Considering their excellent biocompatibility, malic acid carbon dots are suitable for super-resolution fluorescence localization microscopy under a variety of conditions, as we demonstrate in fixed and live trout gill epithelial cells. In addition, during imaging experiments, the so-called "excitation wavelength-dependent" emission was not observed for individual as-made malic acid carbon dots, which motivated us to develop a time-saving and high-throughput separation technique to isolate malic acid carbon dots into fractions of different particle size distributions using C18 reversed-phase silica gel column chromatography. This post-treatment allowed us to determine how particle size distribution influences the optical properties of malic acid carbon dot fractions, that is, optical band gap energies and photoluminescence behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5741-5752
Number of pages12
JournalACS nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 26 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


  • carbon dots
  • column chromatography
  • optical band gap energy
  • photoblinking
  • photoluminescence
  • super-resolution localization microscopy

MRSEC Support

  • Shared

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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