Viraj - How it all began

How I got to hear about quantum dots and their properties is that one day my older sister and I were generally chatting and then she began to tell me about Graphene Quantum Dots (GQDs) and how they are currently being used in bioimaging applications. Since GQDs are biocompatible, non-toxic, water-soluble, and photoluminescent, they are being injected into the human body for tracing cancerous cells and tumors. This gave me the idea that if GQDs are safe to be ingested by humans, then why can’t I use them in my cause towards tracing and tracking endangered animals.

Quantum dots (QDs) are man-made, nano-sized crystals that can transport electrons. When UV light hits these nanoparticles, they emit light of various colors. QDs are semiconductor particles a few nanometres in size and have optical and electronic properties that differ from larger particles due to quantum mechanics. When the quantum dots are illuminated by UV light, an electron in the quantum dot can be excited to a state of higher energy. In the case of a semiconducting QD, this process corresponds to the transition of an electron from the valence band to the conductance band, which is when the QD starts to glow.

Some of the common Quantum dots are made of zinc sulfide, lead sulfide, graphene, cadmium selenide, and indium phosphide. There are many types of quantum dots that exist, but the one that I am particularly interested in is Graphene Quantum Dots.  GQDs possess great properties; such as strong photoluminescence, low toxicity, good conductivity, and can be made at a low cost. 

I think I have found an amazing application for GQDs in solving a global biodiversity crisis. But more than the solution, I think coming up with a problem in the world that needs to be addressed with great attention is more important than how to solve it. Because once you know and are clear of the problem there are many solutions for it. Getting to the right solution takes time and effort but eventually, it is possible.

This is how I correlated the application of Graphene Quantum Dots to tracing and tracking endangered species in their habitats.

I think 3M scientists and all scientists, in general, solve problems by thinking of a problem they need to address first, and then they think about how they can use scientific fundamentals to solve the problem. The first step is observation, then you use science to understand it. If there is something that needs to be solved, use science to solve it. This is the method I used for my project.