Recent advancements in synthesis and analysis of the composites based on silica and carbon quantum dots have revealed great potential of such systems in bioimaging, sensor, as well as solid-state lighting applications. Most of the synthetic methods for obtaining such materials are still relatively complex and costly. The aim of this work was to study the luminescent properties of silica-based composites prepared by the simple sol-gel method using low-cost silicate–citrate–(thio)ureate precursors. The glassy composites were prepared by acid hydrolysis of ethyl silicate (40%) in aqueous solution of citric acid ureates or thioureates with the citric acid-to-(thio)urea molar ratio of 1:1, 1:1.5 or 1:3. The results of spectrofluorimetric analysis have shown that heat-treated at 270 °C such silica gels upon UV excitation (with an optimum at λexc
= 360 nm) emit light in a visible spectrum (400–600 nm). Upon this, photoluminescence efficiency of ureate-derived glasses (quantum yield 70.53% for 1:1.5 sample) appeared to be much higher than that for thioureate-derived glasses (quantum yield 11.25% for 1:3 sample) suggesting that the preparation conditions to obtain the glasses with optimal photoluminescence characteristics are quite different in case of urea and thiourea. Thus, citrate–ureate-derived silica glasses already demonstrate very good potential to be efficient materials for different fluorescence-related applications.
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