A simple approach to obtain hybrid Au-loaded polymeric nanoparticles with a tunable metal load†
A new strategy to nanoengineer multi-functional polymer–metal hybrid nanostructures is reported. By using this protocol the hurdles of most of the current developments concerning covalent and non-covalent attachment of polymers to preformed inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) are overcome. The strategy is based on the in situ reduction of metal precursors using the polymeric nanoparticle as a nanoreactor. Gold nanoparticles and poly(DL-lactic-co-glycolic acid), PLGA, are located in the core and shell, respectively. This novel technique enables the production of PLGA NPs smaller than 200 nm that bear either a single encapsulated Au NP or several smaller NPs with tunable sizes and a 100% loading efficiency. In situ reduction of Au ions inside the polymeric NPs was achieved on demand by using heat to activate the reductive effect of citrate ions. In addition, we show that the loading of the resulting Au NPs inside the PLGA NPs is highly dependent on the surfactant used. Electron microscopy, laser irradiation, UV-Vis and fluorescence spectroscopy characterization techniques confirm the location of Au nanoparticles. These promising results indicate that these hybrid nanomaterials could be used in theranostic applications or as contrast agents in dark-field imaging and computed tomography.