Indian researchers have found a use for sugarcane pulp as a source of highly fluorescent carbon quantum dots. The application could offer a new revenue stream for farmers, and also reduce the amount of agricultural waste.

“In our study, we developed a simple, low-cost and efficient method for green synthesis of fluorescent carbon quantum dots from sugarcane bagasse,” says Dr. Ravi Shankaran Dhesingh, associate professor of nanoscience and nanotechnology at the University of Madras, in Chennai, India.

Use of sugarcane pulp to synthesize carbon quantum dots could offer a  revenue stream for farmers. Image credit: PixabayUse of sugarcane pulp to synthesize carbon quantum dots could offer a revenue stream for farmers. Image credit: PixabayThe dots are carbon nanoparticles around four nanometers in diameter. Because they emit light and are non-toxic, carbon quantum dots can serve as biosensors, in light-emitting diodes, and even to deliver drugs in the human body. For example, researchers have injected liquids containing carbon quantum dots to image a living body from the inside.

The research demonstrates a new method of producing these nanoparticles. To begin, the Indian team cut the sugarcane bagasse into small pieces and sun-dried it. After burning the dry bagasse, they chemically oxidized and exfoliated it.

There have been many attempts to use sugarcane bagasse, but it can be a difficult material to work with. It is unsuitable for paper production because it is very stringy. And while it is often used as biofuel, about half of the bagasse is wasted because it is too wet.

Given the dwindling profit margins for sugarcane producers, nanomaterials could provide an answer for both the environment and industry. These sugarcane carbon quantum dots are just as fluorescent and bio-compatible as those made using other methods, the study shows.

To contact the author of this article, email engineering360editors@globalspec.com