Characterization and physicochemical studies of the conjugates of graphene quantum dots with differently charged zinc phthalocyanines

Unsubstituted zinc phthalocyanine (ZnPc), 2,9,16,23-tetrakis[4-(N-methylpyridyloxy)]-phthalocyanine (ZnTPPcQ) and Zn tetrasulfo phthalocyanine (ZnTSPc) were non-covalently (electrostatic and/or π–π interaction) attached to graphene quantum dots (GQDs) to form GQDs-Pc nanoconjugates. Relative to Pcs alone, the presence of GQDs improved the triplet quantum yields with the following values: GQDs-ZnPc (0.73), GQDs-ZnTPPcQ (0.76) and GQDs-ZnTSPc (0.67). Respective Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) efficiencies were calculated to be 0.81, 0.80 and 0.28. However, singlet oxygen generating abilities of the as-synthesized nanoconjugates were relatively low due to the screening effect of GQDs and quenching in water. This study shows that, the type of Pc, loading and solvent used are among the vital properties to consider when constructing GQD-nanoconjugate systems with optimal triplet quantum yield properties and investigation of their physicochemical properties.