Surface-confined fluorescence enhancement of Au nanoclusters anchoring to a two-dimensional ultrathin nanosheet toward bioimaging
Gold nanoclusters (Au NCs) as ultrasmall fluorescent nanomaterials possess discrete electronic energy and unique physicochemical properties, but suffer from relatively low quantum yield (QY) which severely affects their application in displays and imaging. To solve this conundrum and obtain highly-efficient fluorescent emission, 2D exfoliated layered double hydroxide (ELDH) nanosheets were employed to localize Au NCs with a density as high as 5.44 × 1013 cm−2, by virtue of the surface confinement effect of ELDH. Both experimental studies and computational simulations testify that the excited electrons of Au NCs are strongly confined by MgAl-ELDH nanosheets, which results in a largely promoted QY as well as prolonged fluorescence lifetime (both ∼7 times enhancement). In addition, the as-fabricated Au NC/ELDH hybrid material exhibits excellent imaging properties with good stability and biocompatibility in the intracellular environment. Therefore, this work provides a facile strategy to achieve highly luminescent Au NCs via surface-confined emission enhancement imposed by ultrathin inorganic nanosheets, which can be potentially used in bio-imaging and cell labelling.