pH-sensitive ligand for luminescent quantum dots

Massimiliano Tomasulo, Ibrahim Yildiz, Sireesha L. Kaanumalle, Françisco M. Raymo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


We developed a strategy to switch the luminescence of semiconductor quantum dots with chemical stimulations. It is based on the photoinduced transfer of either energy from CdSe-ZnS core-shell quantum dots to [1,3]oxazine ligands or electrons from the organic to the inorganic components. The organic ligands incorporate a dithiolane anchoring group, an electron-rich indole, and a 4-nitrophenylazophenoxy chromophore in their molecular skeleton. Their adsorption on the surface of the quantum dots results in partial luminescence quenching. Electron transfer from the indole fragment to the nanoparticles is mainly responsible for the decrease in luminescence intensity. Upon addition of base, the [1,3]oxazine ring of the ligands opens to generate a 4-nitrophenylazophenolate chromophore, which absorbs in the range of wavelengths where the quantum dots emit. This transformation activates an energy-transfer pathway from the excited nanoparticles to the ligands. In addition, the oxidation potential of the ligand shifts in the negative direction, improving the efficiency of electron transfer. The overall result is a decrease in the luminescence quantum yield of 83%. Addition of acid also opens the [1,3]oxazine ring of the ligands. However, the resulting 4-nitrophenylazophenol does not absorb in the visible region and cannot accept energy from the excited nanoparticles. Furthermore, the oxidation potential shifts in the positive direction, lowering the electron-transfer efficiency. In fact, the luminescence quantum yield increases by 33% as a result of this transformation. These changes are fully reversible and can be exploited to probe the pH of aqueous solutions from 3 to 11. Indeed, our sensitive quantum dots adjust their luminescence in response to variations in pH within this particular range of values. Thus, our general design strategy can eventually lead to the development of pH-sensitive luminescent probes for biomedical applications based on the unique photophysical properties of semiconductor quantum dots.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)10284-10290
Number of pages7
Issue number24
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'pH-sensitive ligand for luminescent quantum dots'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this