Amphiphilicity-adaptable graphene quantum dots to stabilize pH-responsive pickering emulsions at a very low concentration.
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HYPOTHESIS: Stimuli-responsive Pickering emulsions have attracted considerable interest due to their widespread potential applications. Especially pH-responsive behavior could be easily implemented. In this work, we reported a pH-responsive Pickering emulsion based on amphiphilic graphene quantum dots at a low concentration which shows a great potential from the environmental and economic perspective. The stimuli responsive properties would make the smart Pickering emulsifiers recyclable and reusable. EXPERIMENTS: The amphiphilic-adaptable graphene quantum dots functionalized by alkyl groups (C-GQDs) were synthesized by a facile one-step pyrolysis method. The pH-responsive emulsion performances were investigated, and the mechanism of pH-responsive of C-GQDs was studied by dynamic light scattering. FINDINGS: The amphiphilicity of C-GQDs could be acquired controllably and effectively by this facile one-step pyrolysis method, which are able to stabilize Pickering emulsion at a very low concentration (0.001%). The amphiphilicity of C-GQDs are capable of changing in response to environmental stimuli. When the pH value of aqueous solution adjusts to 2, these C-GQDs aggregate in contrast to their stability in neutral condition due to the alternation of surface charges. The pH-responsive aggregation/ dispersion behavior of C-GQDs allows us to tune the interactions between oil-in-water emulsion droplets without introduction of destabilization agents. This will provide huge economic benefits in industrial applications in the future.