The Pursuit of Shortwave Infrared-Emitting Nanoparticles with Bright Fluorescence through Molecular Design and Excited-State Engineering of Molecular Aggregates

Hubert Marek Piwonski, Shuho Nozue, Satoshi Habuchi

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Shortwave infrared (SWIR) fluorescence detection gradually becomes a pivotal real-time imaging modality, allowing one to elucidate biological complexity in deep tissues with subcellular resolution. The key challenge for the further growth of this imaging modality is the design of new brighter biocompatible fluorescent probes. This review summarizes the recent progress in the development of organic-based nanomaterials with an emphasis on new strategies that extend the fluorescence wavelength from the near-infrared to the SWIR spectral range and amplify the fluorescence brightness. We first introduce the most representative molecular design strategies to obtain near-infrared-SWIR wavelength fluorescence emission from small organic molecules. We then discuss how the formation of nanoparticles based on small organic molecules contributes to the improvement of fluorescence brightness and the shift of fluorescence to SWIR, with a special emphasis on the excited-state engineering of molecular probes in an aggregate state and spatial packing of the molecules in nanoparticles. We build our discussion based on a historical perspective on the photophysics of molecular aggregates. We extend this discussion to nanoparticles made of conjugated polymers and discuss how fluorescence characteristics could be improved by molecular design and chain conformation of the polymer molecules in nanoparticles. We conclude the article with future directions necessary to expand this imaging modality to wider bioimaging applications including single-particle deep tissue imaging. Issues related to the characterization of SWIR fluorophores, including fluorescence quantum yield unification, are also mentioned
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Nanoscience Au
StatePublished - Feb 21 2022

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