Energy transfer processes in dye-doped nanostructures yield cooperative and versatile fluorescent probes
Fast and efficient energy transfer among dyes confined in nanocontainers provides the basis of outstanding functionalities in new-generation luminescent probes. This feature article provides an overview of recent research achievements on luminescent Pluronic-Silica NanoParticles (PluS NPs), a class of extremely monodisperse core–shell nanoparticles whose design can be easily tuned to match specific needs for diverse applications based on luminescence, and that have already been successfully tested in in vivo imaging. An outline of their outstanding properties, such as tuneability, bright and photoswitchable fluorescence and electrochemiluminescence, will be supported by a critical discussion of our recent works in this field. Furthermore, novel data and simulations will be presented to (i) thoroughly examine common issues arising from the inclusion of multiple dyes in a small silica core, and (ii) show the emergence of a cooperative behaviour among embedded dyes. Such cooperative behaviour provides a handle for fine control of brightness, emission colour and self-quenching phenomena in PluS NPs, leading to significantly enhanced signal to noise ratios.