Silicon nanocrystals are intriguing materials for biomedical imaging applications because of their unique optical properties and biological compatibility. We report a new surface functionalization route to synthesize biological buffer soluble and colloidally stable silicon nanocrystals, which is enabled by surface boron doping. Harnessing the distinctive Lewis acidic boron surface sites, postsynthetic modifications of plasma synthesized boron doped nanocrystals were carried out with polyethylene glycol (PEG-OH) ligands in dimethyl sulfoxide under photochemical conditions. The influence of PEG concentration, PEG molecular weight, and boron doping percentage on the nanocrystal solubility in a biological buffer has been investigated. The boron doping facilitates the surface functionalization via two probable pathways, by providing excellent initial dispersiblity in polar solvents and providing available acidic boron surface sites for bonding. These boron doped silicon nanocrystals have nearly identical absorption features as intrinsic silicon nanocrystals, indicating that they are promising candidates for biological imaging applications.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work of was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Award No. R01DA045549. Portions of this work were conducted in the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nano Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) Network under Award No. NNCI-154220.