Nanoparticles as scaffolds for FRET-based ratiometric detection of mercury ions in water with QDs as donors

Baoyu Liu, Fang Zeng, Guangfei Wu, Shuizhu Wu
Analyst 2012 August 21, 137 (16): 3717-24
The quenching of quantum dots' emission by some analytes (Hg(2+), Pb(2+), etc.) has long been hindering the fabrication of QD-based 'turn-on' or ratiometric fluorescent sensors for these analytes. In this study, we demonstrate a facile solution for constructing a robust FRET-based ratiometric sensor for Hg(2+) detection in water with CdTe QDs as the donor. By using the reverse microemulsion approach, CdTe QDs were first embedded into nanosized silica particles, forming the QDs/silica cores, a positively charged ultrathin spacer layer was then deposited on each QDs/silica core, followed by the coating of a mercury ion probe on the particle surfaces. The resultant multilayered QDs/silica composite nanoparticles are dispersible in HEPES buffered water; and in the presence of mercury ions, the QDs inside the nanoparticles will not be quenched by mercury ions due to the existence of the positively charged spacer layer, but can transfer their excited energy to the acceptors (probe/Hg(2+) complex), thus achieving the FRET-based ratiometric sensing for mercury ions in totally aqueous media. With its detection limit of 260 nM, this QD-based sensor exhibits high selectivity toward mercury ion and can be used in a wide pH range. This strategy may be used to construct QDs-based ratiometric assays for other ions which quench the emission of QDs.

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