Photostable phosphorescent polymer nanospheres for high sensitivity detection†
Time-gated interrogation of phosphorescent labels allows high sensitivity detection of analytes by excluding background fluorescence and stray excitation light. Here we report a method for preparing phosphorescent polymer nanospheres with optical properties specifically designed to enable time-gated detection with both organic and inorganic light-emitting diodes and photodiodes. The nanospheres were formed by co-precipitating the phosphorescent dye ruthenium diphenyl phenanthroline with the amphiphilic statistical co-polymer poly(styrene-co-maleic acid). To minimize aggregation and ensure effective encapsulation against water and oxygen ingress, the polymer chains were cross-linked with the small-molecule cross-linker bisphenol A diglycidyl ether, resulting in near-monodisperse nanospheres with excellent resilience against aggregation and quenching. The nanospheres exhibited long phosphorescence lifetimes of 5.3 ± 0.1 μs, high photoluminescence quantum efficiencies of 33 ± 5%, and excellent stability under UV irradiation. Using a blue light-emitting diode as a light-source and a silicon photodiode as a detector, a low detection limit of 4 μg ml−1 was achieved. The suitability of the nanospheres for bioanalysis was demonstrated by surface functionalising them with biotin to yield a simple biolabel for streptavidin.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Highlighting materials research in the UK for optical, magnetic and electronic devices and Bioelectronics