Quantum dots (QDs) have brighter and longer fluorescence than organic dyes. Therefore, QDs can be applied to biotechnology, and have capability to be applied to medical technology. Currently, among the several types of QDs, CdSe with a ZnS shell is one of the most popular QDs to be used in biological experiments. However, when the CdSe QDs were applied to clinical technology, potential toxicological problems due to CdSe core should be considered. To eliminate the problem, silicon nanocrystals, which have the potential of biocompatibility, could be a candidate of alternate probes.
Silicon nanocrystals have been synthesized using several techniques such as aerosol, electrochemical etching, laser pyrolysis, plasma deposition, and colloids. Recently, the silicon nanocrystals were reported to be synthesized in inverse micelles and also stabilized with 1-heptene or allylamine capping. Blue fluorescence of the nanocrystals was observed when excited with a UV light. The nanocrystals covered with 1-heptene are hydrophobic, whereas the ones covered with allylamine are hydrophilic. To test the stability in cytosol, the water-soluble nanocrystals covered with allylamine were examined with a Hela cell incorporation experiment. Bright blue fluorescence of the nanocrystals was detected in the cytosol when excited with a UV light, implying that the nanocrystals were able to be applied to biological imaging.
In order to expand the application range, we synthesized and compared a series of silicon nanocrystals, which have variable surface modification, such as alkyl group, alcohol group, and odorant molecules. This study will provide a wider range of optoelectronic applications and bioimaging technology.