Blue-emitting InP quantum dots participate in an efficient resonance energy transfer process in water†
Development of stable blue-emitting materials has always been a challenging task because of the necessity of high crystal quality and good optical properties. We have developed a highly efficient blue-emitter, based on environmentally friendly indium phosphide/zinc sulphide quantum dots (InP/ZnS QDs) in water, by controlling the growth kinetics of the core as well as the shell. A rational combination of less-reactive metal-halides, phosphorus, and sulphur precursors is the key for achieving the uniform growth of the InP core and ZnS shell. The InP/ZnS QDs showed long-term stable photoluminescence (PL) in the pure-blue region (∼462 nm), with an absolute PL quantum yield of ∼50% and a colour purity of ∼80% in water. Cytotoxicity studies revealed that the cells can withstand up to ∼2 micromolar concentration of pure-blue emitting InP/ZnS QDs (∼120 μg mL−1). Multicolour imaging studies show that the PL of InP/ZnS QDs was well-retained inside the cells as well, without interfering with the fluorescence signal of commercially available biomarkers. Moreover, the ability of InP based pure-blue emitters to participate in an efficient Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) process is demonstrated. Installing a favorable electrostatic interaction turned out to be crucial in achieving an efficient FRET process (E ∼75%) from blue-emitting InP/ZnS QDs to rhodamine B dye (Rh B) in water. The quenching dynamics fits well with the Perrin formalism and the distance-dependent quenching (DDQ) model, which confirms an electrostatically driven multi-layer assembly of Rh B acceptor molecules around the InP/ZnS QD donor. Furthermore, the process of FRET was successfully translated into the solid state, proving their suitability for device-level studies as well. In short, our study expands the spectrum of aqueous QDs based on InP towards the blue region for future biological and light harvesting studies.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Quantum Dots: Celebrating the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry