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Keywords:

  • ultrabright fluorescence;
  • nanophotonics;
  • self-assembly;
  • mesoporous silica nanoparticles;
  • encapsulated fluorescent dyes

Abstract

The synthesis of ultrabright fluorescent mesoporous silica nanoparticles (UFSNPs) of various sizes loaded with different amounts of fluorescent dye (Rhodamine 6G) is reported here. The dye is physically entrapped inside the nanochannels of the silica matrix created during templated sol–gel self assembly. Due to the specific nanoenvironment, the fluorescence of the encapsulated dye molecules remains unquenched up to very high concentrations, which results in relatively high fluorescence. The particle size (ranging from 20–50 nm) and dye loading (0.8–9.3 mg dye per g particles) are controlled by the timing of the synthesis and the concentration of several organotriethoxysilanes, which are coprecursors of silica. The quantum yields of the encapsulated dye range from 0.65 to 1.0. The relative brightness of a single particle is equivalent to the fluorescence of 30–770 free nondimerized R6G dye molecules in water, or to that of 1.5–39 CdSe/ZnS quantum dots. Despite the presence of some hydrophobic groups on the particles' surfaces, colloidal suspensions of the particles are relatively stable (as monitored for 120 days).