23. Ultra-small, highly stable, and membrane-impermeable fluorescent nanosensors for oxygen
We report on the preparation of ultra-small fluorescent nanosensors for oxygen via a one-pot approach. The nanoparticles have a hydrophobic core capable of firmly hosting hydrophobic luminescent oxygen probes. Their surface is composed of a dense and long-chain poly(ethylene glycol) shell, which renders them cell-membrane impermeable but yet highly sensitive to oxygen, and also highly stable in aqueous solutions and cell culture media. These features make them potentially suitable for sensing oxygen in extracellular fluids such as blood, interstitial and brain fluid, in (micro) bioreactors and micro- or nanoscale fluidic devices. Four kinds of nanosensors are presented, whose excitation spectra cover a wide spectral range (395–630 nm), thus matching many common laser lines, and with emission maxima ranging from 565 to 800 nm, thereby minimizing interference from background luminescence of biomatter. The unquenched lifetimes are on the order of 5.8–234 s, which—in turn—enables lifetime imaging and additional background separation via time-gated methods.