Fluorescent Polyethylene by in Situ Facile Synthesis of Carbon Quantum Dots Facilitated by Silica Nanoparticle Agglomerates

Sida Yin, Joost Duvigneau*, G. Julius Vancso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
109 Downloads (Pure)


We describe an in situ facile synthetic approach to prepare carbon quantum dot (CQD) fluorescent markers (FMs) for polyethylene (PE) in the presence of agglomerated silica nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs) under mild reaction conditions. First SiO2 NPs, prepared by the Stöber method, were dispersed in toluene. This dispersion was added to a PE solution in toluene. After heating (either in air or under Ar) a fluorescent mixture was obtained. After drying, PE films were obtained by compression molding, which showed strong blue fluorescence, attributed to CQDs. SiO2 NPs loading values varied between 0.5 and 4 wt %. Subsequent to isolation, the fluorescent CQDs were characterized by TEM, UV-vis, and fluorescence spectroscopy. TEM imaging unveiled a lattice spacing value of 0.21 nm of the isolated fluorescent particles which is typical for (100) graphite plane lattice spacing in CQDs. UV spectroscopy and fluorescence measurements show characteristic absorption and excitation spectra for the aromatic core and oxidized surface defects typically observed for CQDs. The emission maximum for PE/CQD samples increased from 394 to 408 nm when the reaction temperature was decreased from 110 to 90 °C, which is attributed to increasing oxygen content in the reaction mixture upon decreasing the reaction temperature. When the reaction was performed under Ar, the PE/CQD samples emitted in the ultraviolet region (286 nm). Finally, we demonstrated that PE samples marked with CQDs can be easily visually identified upon irradiating with 367 nm light. Thus, the marked PE can be used, for example, as a labeling ingredient in master batches for component identification and in recycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5517-5526
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2021


  • Carbon quantum dots
  • Fluorescence
  • Optical markers
  • Plastic sorting
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Silica nanoparticles
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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