Quantification of Humic Substances in Natural Water Using Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Dots

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is ubiquitous in aqueous environments and plays a significant role in pollutant mitigation, transformation and organic geochemical circulation. DOM is also capable of forming carcinogenic byproducts in the disinfection treatment processes of drinking water. Thus, efficient methods for DOM quantification are highly desired. In this work, a novel sensor for rapid and selective detection of humic substances (HS), a key component of DOM, based on fluorescence quenching of nitrogen-doped carbon quantum dots was developed. The experimental results show that the HS detection range could be broadened to 100 mg/L with a detection limit of 0.2 mg/L. Moreover, the detection was effective within a wide pH range of 3.0 to 12.0, and the interferences of ions on the HS measurement were negligible. A good detection result for real surface water samples further validated the feasibility of the developed detection method. Furthermore, a nonradiation electron transfer mechanism for quenching the nitrogen-doped carbon-dots fluorescence by HS was elucidated. In addition, we prepared a test paper and proved its effectiveness. This work provides a new efficient method for the HS quantification than the frequently used modified Lowry method in terms of sensitivity and detection range.