We have designed a new set of coordinating ligands made of a lipoic acid (LA) anchor and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrophilic moiety appended with a terminal aldehyde for the surface functionalization of QDs. This ligand design was combined with a recently developed photoligation strategy to prepare hydrophilic CdSe-ZnS QDs with good control over the fraction of intact aldehyde (-CHO) groups per nanocrystal. We further applied the efficient hydrazone ligation to react aldehyde-QDs with 2-hydrazinopyridine (2-HP). This covalent modification produces QD-conjugates with a well-defined absorption feature at 350 nm ascribed to the hydrazone chromophore. We exploited this unique optical signature to accurately measure the number of aldehyde groups per QD when the fraction of LA-PEG-CHO per nanocrystal was varied. This allowed us to extract an estimate for the number of LA-PEG ligands per QD. These results suggest that hydrazone ligation has the potential to provide a simple and general analytical method to estimate the number of surface ligands for a variety of nanocrystals such as metal, metal oxide and semiconductor nanocrystals.
We describe the design and optimization of an amphiphilic diblock copolymer and its use to provide surface functionalization of colloidal semiconductor nanoparticles (quantum dots, QDs). This polymer coating promotes hydrophilicity of the nanocrystals while providing numerous functional groups ideally suited for biofunctionalization of the QDs using copper-catalyzed azide alkyne <i>Husigen</i> 1,3-cyloaddition (i.e., cupper catalyzed “click” reaction). Copper ions are known to quench the fluorescence of QDs in solution. Thus effective shielding of the nanocrystal surface is essential to apply copper-catalyzed reactions to luminescent QDs without drastically quenching their emission. We have applied a strategy based on micellar encapsulation within poly(isoprene-<i>block</i>- ethylene oxide) diblock-copolymers (PI-<i>b</i>-PEO), where three critical factors promote and control the effectiveness of the shielding of copper ion penetration: 1) The excess of PI-<i>b</i>-PEO, 2) the size of PI-<i>b</i>-PEO and 3) insertion of an additional PS-shell grown via seeded emulsion polymerization (EP) reaction. Due to the amphiphilic character of the block-copolymer, this approach provides a shielding layer surrounding the particles, preventing metal ions from reaching the QD surfaces and maintaining high photoluminescence. The effective shielding allowed the use of copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne 1,3-cycloaddition (CuAAC) to hydrophilic and highly fluorescent QDs, opening up great possibilities for the bio functionalization of QDs.