DIY Quantum Dots(Nanotech in Your Kitchen)

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About: I'm a man of many hats. I'm an undergrad researcher, amateur carpenter, creator, and tinkerer. My main focus is material science and nanotechnology but I'm just a big nerd. I like to make things and share my...

I'm an undergrad researcher in material science and nanomaterials. For years I've wanted a simple science experiment that a child could do with parental or adult supervision for nanoscience outreach. I'm tired of simple baking soda volcanoes. You are better than that.... So lets make nanomaterials in the kitchen! Today, you're gonna make the tiniest Instructable ever.

Specifically, we are making Carbon Quantum Dots. Quantum dots are nanometer scale particles, typically of semiconductor. They are so small that when high energy light hits them, the photons will be absorbed then emitted at a lower energy state. QD's are usually made from toxic chemicals but today I'll show you how to make non-toxic quantum dots in your home. Also, they can be used as fluorescent dyes, inks, and possibly paints. I will probably be making things glow around my apartment in the coming days.

The original paper at the bottom used baking soda and fructose over the course of an hour. I modified it to use sucrose and take 10 minutes.

Disclaimer: This is as dangerous as making candy. This is simply cooking, be safe and use common sense, molten sugar is the worst thing to burn yourself with.

Equipment Needed

Microwave

Tempored Glass bowl(I prefer Borosilicate but we aren't rapidly changing temperatures)

Heat resistant gloves(perhaps with silicone for grip)

A few containers for you samples

Plastic Pipettes

Glass vials to store

UV or Blacklight

Supplies

Water(I used tap water)

Baking soda(Sodium Bicarbonate)

Cane sugar(Sucrose)

White Vinegar(Acetic Acid)

Step 1: Prep the Saccharide

Add to the glass bowl

1 cup of water

1/4th cup of vinegar

6 tablespoons of sugar(80 grams)

Microwave for 5 minutes

The sucrose must be broken down in a process called inversion, the sucrose is broken into fructose and glucose. Sucrose inversion is heavily used candy making because it makes the sugar less grainy in sweets. The acid decreases the time needed to do this from hours to minutes, especially with the application of heat.

Step 2: Neutralize the Acid

Allow the bowl to cool to be safely handled

Slowly add 20 grams of baking soda to the solution.(See video to see what happens when you do it all at once.)

The solution must be basic for the synthesis to occur so we add enough baking soda to neutralize the acid and make raise the pH.

Step 3: Synthesize the Quantum Dots

Microwave the basic solution for 5 minutes. The liquid will yellow then darken.

As the concentration of QD's increase, the liquid will get darker and darker. I was able to get formation within 3 minutes but I wanted to minimize any chance of failure for anyone reproducing this experiment.

Step 4: Dilute the Quantum Dots

Allow the bowl to cool then pipette small amounts to a half filled vial of water. The Quantum Dots/sugar mixture will disburse and glow Green when exposed to an ultraviolet light.

If the QD's are too concentrated then they wont glow as well, you have most likely made several cups or a liters worth of Quantum Dots in 10 minutes, Congratulations.

Step 5: Discussion

This project was originally much more difficult but made an additional color. It originally took significantly longer to make the QDs.

Photo 1:I Took a sample at 1 minute, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, and an hour.

The sucrose(a disaccharide) is not as easily converted to Quantum Dots as simple sugars(monosaccharides). I spent an hour and a half to get QD's just using baking soda. The sucrose would only decompose to Glucose and Fructose at high temperatures for extended periods of time. When simple sugars are in a basic solution, they can form the quantum dots. So using the acid and heat, I made lots of free fructose and glucose, but then I had to make the solution basic again.

So we added baking soda to neutralize the acid, but that isn't enough, when acetic acid and baking soda mix, they form sodium acetate which acts as a weakly acidic buffer solution. So i added plenty of sodium bicarbonate to the instructions to overcome the sodium acetate's buffering properties.

All in all, it was a fascinating challenge and I hope I've satisfied everyone's curiosity today.

Additional Reading and references

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/gc/c3gc42562b#!divAbstract

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34 Discussions

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ad1000

17 hours ago on Step 5

Awesome post. Couldn't resist making some. They look particularly stunning when illuminated with a purple laser (left glass is plain water, right one has quantum dots in it.

IMG_20190322_225653.jpg
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SHOE0007

11 days ago

Would this work with different dyes (Tonic water) for example and with Lasers 405 nm purple dot laser? I like the Idea of Non-toxic quantum dots tho. Keep up the good work.

7 replies
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ralph.peteranderlSHOE0007

Reply 6 days ago

I looked at the original paper cited here (Which is a free pdf download from the Journal "Green Chemistry", and they show excitation spectra for their quantum dots. According to the paper, excitation at 405 - 470 nm gave rise to emission spectra between 500 - 600 nm (roughly - check out figure 4d in the paper).
I don't think that tonic water/quinine (Sp?) will give you a better result, partially because the quinine will already add its own fluorescence.
A very interesting option, though, is excitation with near IR light. According to the original paper, carbon-based quantum dots are very good at 2 photon excitation, where 2 IR photons at 820 nm do the job of 1 near UV photon at 410 nm. So you could convert IR light into visible green light..

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SHOE0007ralph.peteranderl

Reply 5 days ago

Well, that interesting but I hoped quinine would work. It a lot of work for something that barely glows but cool if an IR diode was used I don't have many applications for IR diodes Laser type Right now and they are sort of expensive! Still very cool.

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ralph.peteranderlSHOE0007

Reply 2 days ago

Quinine fluorescence is a different mechanism - the electrons in the molecule get bumped up into a higher energy level by the UV or blue light, they loose some energy as heat, and then release the remainder as a fluorescence photon.
It seems that people are not quite sure yet how the emission works in carbon quantum dots, but for regular quantum dots the dimensions of the particle determine the wavelength/energy of the photon that can be emitted.

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SHOE0007ralph.peteranderl

Reply 2 days ago

Well, thank you so it is the size of the "Nanoparticles". Looking at it, it does not seem like it fluoresces a lot and why would this be? Is it because it is fairly sensitive to heat, and sugar formation? It is still very cool converting 800 nm IR wavelength into green would be good if it "was bright enough" tho!

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SHOE0007SHOE0007

Reply 5 days ago

Well I have a 405 nm laser I could eventually get a 445 nm blue laser but they are NOT cheap either on Ebay.

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SHOE0007ralph.peteranderl

Reply 5 days ago

Well getting a 445-450 nm blue laser to give a orange color with Quantium dots sounds cool but they are quite expensive too.

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ralph.peteranderlSHOE0007

Reply 2 days ago

I ended up buying a bundle of laser pointers (Red, green, blue) from a Chinese site on Amazon, and the price was not all that bad.

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jakpot

Question 5 days ago

Sooo... I assume it would be safe to eat?? would look cool in a cocktail?? :D

2 answers
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StrangelyAmusingjakpot

Answer 5 days ago

Please no lol it’s non-toxic in the sense that it won’t give you cancer but it’s still very basic. It would give you a very upset stomach if not worse. There are other ways to make glowing drinks that are significantly safer.

Would baking soda really be that hazardous to your health? At worst it will neutralize your stomach acid, which if you have heartburn wouldn't be that bad.

It will have the "salty" taste from the sodium though.

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GTO3x2

5 days ago

Exactly how is a "quantum dot" not a molecule?

1 reply
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StrangelyAmusingGTO3x2

Reply 5 days ago

Well considering I just got out of a nanomaterial class(bout 10 minutes ago), I can answer your question pretty easily. Quantum dots are typically too large to be considered molecules. Molecules are atoms bound together. Quantum dots often have molecular precursors that either decompose giving up specific atoms or jumbling up together like a ball of yarn. Another big differentiator is size. Molecules are typically in angstroms(10 angstroms make 1 nm) quantum dots are typically 1-10nm in diameter. So if it’s easier to picture, if it’s a ball between 1-10nm, it’s a quantum dot(assuming they fluoresce in some way too). Hope that helps without going into deeper descriptions(like zero dimensional materials). Good question though!

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MTKapp27

5 days ago

Very cool post. The only time I ever heard of quantum dots before was in my Materials Science class (Mechanical Engineering Major @ Drexel). Pretty neat and Great post. Gonna have to do this with my kids. Great for Steam Projects.

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merenguele

5 days ago

A few months ago I took a mini course about nanomaterials (Laboral health safety) because I'm aware that these nanomaterials are already here and will stay (many people doesn't realise that chemistry is everywhere!). So when I read "quantum dots at the kitchen" I was very happy to find your instructable. So I'll try to show and explain my kids! I want them to be MAKERS not just users! :-)
Keep doing!

1 reply
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JeffG22

5 days ago

I’d like to know how long this solution would keep its glowing effect? Is this something I could put into vinyl hoses, seal and put into something like a computer tower as a case mod?

2 replies
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StrangelyAmusingJeffG22

Reply 5 days ago

I believe the quantum dots should last about a year to 18 months. Definitely not a permanent thing. Also they work best when under blacklight, which may cause damage to certain plastics, I would be careful with how I arranged it. But if you keep it external, and you don't mind, replacing the solutions yearly, I don't see a problem. The beauty of your question is, no one else has tried... So if you do it, you'll be one of the first to use quantum dots like this. The materials are cheap so you can make a lot and play around with it. It will take a lot of trial and error, I'm going to be experimenting with QD's too so you can keep an eye out for me and I'll keep an eye out for what you make. Good luck!

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JeffG22StrangelyAmusing

Reply 5 days ago

I was thinking of investing in cold cathode uv type lighting for the inside, I’ll definitely have to give it a try. Would sure beat using glow sticks if it lasts a few months.