Lipophilic energy transfer cassettes like 1 and 2 are more conveniently synthesized than the corresponding hydrophilic compounds, but they are not easily used in aqueous media. To overcome the latter issue, cassettes 1 and 2 were separately encapsulated in silica nanoparticles (ca. 22 nm) which freely disperse in aqueous media. Photophysical properties of the encapsulated dyes 1–SiO2 and 2–SiO2 were recorded. The nanoparticles 1–SiO2 permeated into Clone 9 rat liver cells and targeted only the ER. A high degree of energy transfer was observed in this organelle such that most of the light fluoresced from the acceptor part, i.e. the particles appeared red. Silica nanoparticles 2–SiO2 also permeated into Clone 9 rat liver cells and they targeted mitochondria but were also observed in endocytic vesicles (lysosomes or endosomes). In these organelles they fluoresced red and red/green respectively. Thus the cargo inside the nanoparticles influences where they localize in cells, and the environment of the nanoparticles in the cells changes the fluorescent properties of the encapsulated dyes. Neither of these findings were anticipated given that silica nanoparticles of this type are generally considered to be non-porous.