Theranostics 2020; 10(2):671-686. doi:10.7150/thno.39863


Carbon Dots as Potent Antimicrobial Agents

Xiuli Dong1, Weixiong Liang2, Mohammed J. Meziani2,3✉, Ya-Ping Sun2✉, Liju Yang1✉

1. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC 27707, USA
2. Department of Chemistry and Laboratory for Emerging Materials and Technology, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634, USA
3. Department of Natural Sciences, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, Missouri 64468, USA

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Dong X, Liang W, Meziani MJ, Sun YP, Yang L. Carbon Dots as Potent Antimicrobial Agents. Theranostics 2020; 10(2):671-686. doi:10.7150/thno.39863. Available from

File import instruction


Carbon dots (CDots) have emerged to represent a highly promising new platform for visible/natural light-activated microbicidal agents. In this article, the syntheses, structures, and properties of CDots are highlighted, representative studies on their activities against bacteria, fungi, and viruses reviewed, and the related mechanistic insights discussed. Also highlighted and discussed are the excellent opportunities for potentially extremely broad applications of this new platform, including theranostics uses.

Keywords: carbon dots, antimicrobial, light activation, photodynamic effect, reactive oxygen species, multi-drug resistance.