Carbon quantum dots with tracer-like breakthrough ability for reservoir characterization

Zhongliang Hu, Hui Gao, Srinivasa B. Ramisetti, Jin Zhao, Ehsan Nourafkan, Paul W.J. Glover, Dongsheng Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Predictions have shown that our demand for oil and gas will continue to grow in the next decade, and future supply will become more reliant on tertiary recovery and from nonconventional resources. However, current reservoir characterization methodologies, such as well logs, cross-well electromagnetic imaging and seismic methods, have their individual limitations on detection range and resolution. Here we propose a pioneering way to use carbon quantum dots (CQDs) as nanoparticle tracers, which can be transported through a reservoir functioning as conventional tracers, while acting as sensors to obtain useful information. These hydrothermally produced CQDs from Xylose possess excellent stability in high ionic strength solutions, durable absorbance and fluorescence ability due to multi high-polarity functional group on their surfaces. Consistency between our on-line ultraviolet–visible (UV–Vis) spectroscopy and off-line Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) measurements confirms that CQDs have the tracer-like migration capability in glass beads-packed columns and sandstone cores, regardless of particle concentration and ionic strength. However, their migration ability is undermined in the column packed with crushed calcite grains with positive charge. We also demonstrate that quantitative oil saturation detection in unknown sandstone core samples can be achieved by such CQDs based on its breakthrough properties influenced by the presence of oil phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-589
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • High salinity
  • Quantum dots
  • Scalable nanotracer
  • Subsurface reservoir characterization
  • Transport behaviour


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