Fluorescence imaging at longer wavelengths, especially in the shortwave-infrared (SWIR: 1000-1700 nm) region, leads to a substantial decrease in light attenuation, scattering, and background autofluorescence, thereby enabling enhanced penetration into biological tissues. The limited selection of fluorescent probes is a major bottleneck in SWIR fluorescence imaging. Here, we develop SWIR-emitting nanoparticles composed of donor-acceptor-type conjugated polymers. The bright SWIR fluorescence of the polymer dots (primarily attributable to their large absorption cross-section and high fluorescence saturation intensity (as high as 113 kW·cm-2)) enables the unprecedented detection of single particles as small as 14 nm through millimeter-thick turbid media. Unlike most SWIR-emitting nanomaterials, which have an excited-state lifetime in the range of microseconds to milliseconds, our polymer dots exhibit a subnanosecond excited-state lifetime. These characteristics enable us to demonstrate new time-gated single-particle imaging with a high signal-to-background ratio. These findings expand the range of potential applications of single-particle deep-tissue imaging.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-11-24
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): OSR-2016-2967-CRG5
Acknowledgements: This study was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the KAUST Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) under Award No. OSR-2016-2967-CRG5.