Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

After quantum dots, now come glowing ’Cornell dots,’ for biological tagging, imaging and optical computing

20.05.2005


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 can’t resolve individual molecules, and electron microscopes can’t 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 can’t see the molecules, an optical microscope can track the bright light given off by the dye.


Quantum dots -- which have been used for the same purpose -- are tiny particles of semiconductors such as cadmium selenide that behave as if they were individual atoms: They can absorb light energy, kicking their internal electrons up to higher energy levels, then release the energy by emitting light. A quantum dot fluoresces much more brightly than a dye molecule, making it a desirable marker.

Cornell dots, also known as CU dots, are nanoparticles consisting of a core about 2.2 nanometers (nm) in diameter containing several dye molecules, surrounded by a protective silica shell, making the entire particle about 25 nm in diameter. The researchers call this a "core-shell architecture." (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, about three times the diameter of a silicon atom.)

Like quantum dots, CU dots are many times brighter (20-30 times) than single dye molecules in solution and resist "photobleaching," a process by which dyes in solution rapidly lose their fluorescence. CU dots can be made with a wide variety of dyes, producing a large assortment of colors.

The manufacture of CU dots and early experiments with them are described in a paper, "Bright and Stable Core-Shell Fluorescent Silica Nanoparticles," in the journal Nano Letters (Vol. 5 No. 1) by Wiesner and his Cornell colleagues Hooisweng Ow, Daniel R. Larson, Mamta Srivastava, Barbara A. Baird and Watt W. Webb .

Unlike quantum dots, CU dots are mostly chemically inert. The silica shell is silicon dioxide -- essentially glass. For use as biological markers, quantum dots are encased in a polymer shell -- a process that adds to their already high manufacturing cost. Quantum dots also contain heavy metals like cadmium that can leach through the polymer shell and disrupt the chemistry being observed.

However, Wiesner says, "Silica is benign, cheap and easy to attach, and it is totally compatible with silicon manufacturing technology. That opens enormous possibilities in the life sciences and in information technology."

The Cornell researchers tested the use of CU dots as biological markers by attaching an antibody, immunoglobin E (IgE), and observing how this combination attached to cell receptors on leukemia mast cells.

The dots also offer an intriguing physics question: Why do they fluoresce so brightly? In effect, the whole is brighter than the sum of its parts. "We have this enormous brightness, and we don’t know exactly where it’s coming from," Wiesner says. Several explanations have been offered. One is that the silicon shell protects the dye molecules from the solvent. A second is that dye molecules floating free can lose energy by actions other than emitting photons, but in the packed core of the particle those other actions are diminished.

The dots were created by Ow, then Wiesner’s graduate student. Webb, the S.B. Eckert Professor in Engineering, and Larson, a graduate student in applied and engineering physics now at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, studied their photophysical properties. Baird, director of the Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center, and Srivastava, a postdoctoral researcher, studied the dots as labels on living cells.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the state of New York and Phillip Morris USA. Quantum Dot Corp. supplied quantum dots used for comparison.

Bill Steele | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A better way to weigh millions of solitary stars
15.12.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht A chip for environmental and health monitoring
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>