Ultrabright fluorescent silica particles with a large number of complex spectra excited with a single wavelength for multiplex applications
We report on a novel approach to synthesize ultrabright fluorescent silica particles capable of producing a large number of complex spectra. The spectra can be excited using a single wavelength which is paramount in quantitative fluorescence imaging, flow cytometry and sensing applications. The approach employs the physical encapsulation of organic fluorescent molecules inside a nanoporous silica matrix with no dye leakage. As was recently demonstrated, such an encapsulation allowed for the encapsulation of very high concentrations of organic dyes without quenching their fluorescent efficiency. As a result, dye molecules are distanced within ∼5 nm from each other; it theoretically allows for efficient exchange of excitation energy via Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). Here we present the first experimental demonstration of the encapsulation of fluorescent dyes in the FRET sequence. Attaining a FRET sequence of up to five different dyes is presented. The number of distinguishable spectra can be further increased by using different relative concentrations of encapsulated dyes. Combining these approaches allows for creating a large number of ultrabright fluorescent particles with substantially different fluorescence spectra. We also demonstrate the utilization of these particles for potential multiplexing applications. Though fluorescence spectra of the obtained multiplex probes are typically overlapping, they can be distinguished by using standard linear decomposition algorithms.