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Synthesis and characterization of NANOstructured materials with LumInescent properties for diaGnostic and tHerapeuTic applications

Final Report Summary - NANOLIGHT (Synthesis and characterization of NANOstructured materials with LumInescent properties for diaGnostic and tHerapeuTic applications)

NANOLIGHT pursues the investigation of different synthesis strategies to obtain silicon-related nanocrystals and carbon nanodots with luminescent properties as an alternative to conventional fluorescent biomarkers or other light-emitting semiconductor nanoparticles containing heavy metals known as quantum dots. Nanostructured silicon and carbon particles can provide appealing properties such as size and wavelength-dependent luminescence emission in the visible/near infrared window, resistance to photobleaching and robust surface chemistry for grafting of biomolecules without incurring the burden of intrinsic toxicity or elemental scarcity of quantum dots.

In the last 36 months, remarkable advances have been made, especially in the synthesis, characterization and purification of luminescent carbon nanodots, which have been successfully tested as selective ion nanoprobes, fluorescent labels for bioimaging of glioma cells (both under UV and NIR sources) and, finally, as photo-catalysts in water decontamination processes. Additionally, a continuous laser reactor has been optimized for the direct synthesis and collection of monodispersed silicon and silicon carbide nanoparticles in a liquid medium. Other strategies have also been alternatively explored for the synthesis of luminescent and mesoporous materials for potential use as simultaneous optical markers and cargo containers of biomolecules of interest.

The different materials synthesized in the NANOLIGHT project hold a great potential as theranostic agents (diagnostic imaging and photodynamic therapy). Moreover, novel environmental applications in decontamination and sensing of organo-chlorated disrupting derivatives adventitious for human’s health can be also envisioned. Finally, from the economical point of view, these materials are competitive, given their abundance and the low cost of the raw starting precursors.

NANOLIGHT is being a very positive opportunity for the grant holder to actively participate and gain experience in the management of a research project and, at the same time, co-direct a PhD thesis. Because of the development of a new and multidisciplinary research line, several collaborations have been started within the host institution and with external research centres. This project has enabled the grant holder developing and establishing a new research topic within the hosting group with great potential applications in multiple fields, thereby expanding the possibilities of the fellow for future research activities.