Core–shell designs of photoluminescent nanodiamonds with porous silica coatings for bioimaging and drug delivery I: fabrication†
A multifunctional core–shell nanocomposite platform consisting of a photoluminescent nanodiamond (ND) core with uniform porous silica coatings is presented. This design intended for drug delivery applications allows simultaneous stable fluorescent imaging with high loading capacity of bioactive molecules. Despite irregularly shaped starting cores, well-dispersed and uniformly shaped nanocomposite particles can be produced. Moreover, after optimization of the silica source-to-diamond ratio, the thickness of the porous layer can be tuned by adjusting the ethanol amount, allowing rational nanoparticle size control. The ND key property, photoluminescence, is not quenched regardless of coating with thick silica layers. The high loading capacity for incorporation of active agents, provided by the introduced porous layer, is demonstrated by adsorption of a hydrophobic model drug to the composite particles. The loading degree, as compared to a pure ND, increased by two orders of magnitude from 1 wt% for the ND to >100 wt% for the composite particles. Combining these two material classes, which both have well-documented excellent performance especially in biomedical applications, for the NDs with emphasis, but not exclusively, on imaging and mesoporous silica (MSN) on drug delivery, the advantages of both are shown here to be synergistically integrated into one multifunctional nanocomposite platform.