• core etching;
  • luminescence;
  • nanoparticles;
  • quantum clusters;
  • sensors


The synthesis of a luminescent quantum cluster (QC) of gold with a quantum yield of ∼4 % is reported. It was synthesized in gram quantities by the core etching of mercaptosuccinic acid protected gold nanoparticles by bovine serum albumin (BSA), abbreviated as AuQC@BSA. The cluster was characterized and a core of Au38 was assigned tentatively from mass spectrometric analysis. Luminescence of the QC is exploited as a “turn-off” sensor for Cu2+ ions and a “turn-on” sensor for glutathione detection. Metal-enhanced luminescence (MEL) of this QC in the presence of silver nanoparticles is demonstrated and a ninefold maximum enhancement is seen. This is the first report of the observation of MEL from QCs. Folic acid conjugated AuQC@BSA was found to be internalized to a significant extent by oral carcinoma KB cells through folic acid mediated endocytosis. The inherent luminescence of the internalized AuQC@BSA was used in cell imaging.