By surrounding fluorescent dyes with a protective silica shell, Cornell University researchers have created fluorescent nanoparticles with possible applications in displays, biological imaging, optical computing, sensors and microarrays such as DNA chips. These are all applications for which quantum dots have been used or are being considered. But the new Cornell nanoparticles offer an appealing alternative because of their greater chemical inertness and reduced cost.
CU dots bound to immunoglobin-G antibodies attach to the surface of leukemia cells, demonstrating a possible use in biological tagging. Copyright © Cornell University
"People have done superb experiments with quantum dots that were not previously possible," says Ulrich Wiesner, Cornell associate professor of materials science and engineering. "Hopefully Cornell dots will serve the same purpose and offer new possibilities." There are also some interesting physics questions about how the new dots work, he adds.
Since optical microscopes cant resolve individual molecules, and electron microscopes cant be used on living organisms, biologists often tag organic molecules with fluorescent dyes in order to track their movements through biological processes, such as the action of enzymes inside a living cell. While it cant see the molecules, an optical microscope can track the bright light given off by the dye.
Bill Steele | EurekAlert!
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