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J Vis Exp. 2016 Feb 6;(108):e53684. doi: 10.3791/53684.

Synthesis of Cd-free InP/ZnS Quantum Dots Suitable for Biomedical Applications.

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Department of Chemistry, Missouri State University.
Center for Molecular Microscopy, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.
Department of Chemistry, Missouri State University;


Fluorescent nanocrystals, specifically quantum dots, have been a useful tool for many biomedical applications. For successful use in biological systems, quantum dots should be highly fluorescent and small/monodisperse in size. While commonly used cadmium-based quantum dots possess these qualities, they are potentially toxic due to the possible release of Cd(2+) ions through nanoparticle degradation. Indium-based quantum dots, specifically InP/ZnS, have recently been explored as a viable alternative to cadmium-based quantum dots due to their relatively similar fluorescence characteristics and size. The synthesis presented here uses standard hot-injection techniques for effective nanoparticle growth; however, nanoparticle properties such as size, emission wavelength, and emission intensity can drastically change due to small changes in the reaction conditions. Therefore, reaction conditions such temperature, reaction duration, and precursor concentration should be maintained precisely to yield reproducible products. Because quantum dots are not inherently soluble in aqueous solutions, they must also undergo surface modification to impart solubility in water. In this protocol, an amphiphilic polymer is used to interact with both hydrophobic ligands on the quantum dot surface and bulk solvent water molecules. Here, a detailed protocol is provided for the synthesis of highly fluorescent InP/ZnS quantum dots that are suitable for use in biomedical applications.

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