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Inverted core/shell Nanocrystals: the future Nanomaterial for the Visualization of Neuron activity

Project description

Non-toxic semiconductor nanocrystals stimulate and record neuronal activity

The ability to "see" the large-scale dynamic activity of neurons and their networks is an important tool that has complemented well-established electrophysiological current and voltage recording methods. Nanotechnology has been an enabler of advances in optical approaches. For example, semiconductor nanocrystals including quantum dots as fluorescent voltage sensors have been successfully used to report voltage changes across neurons with very high temporal accuracy. Cadmium-based quantum dots were the first commercially available, but cadmium can be toxic to cells. The EU-funded iNano project is developing novel semiconductor nanocrystals made of high-performing and safe indium phosphide to light the way to neurons – and to "activate" them.


"The main goal of the iNano project is the development of a new synthesis approach for Indium phosphide (InP)-based semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs), which will be used to record and stimulate neuron activity in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron cells.
Although Cd-based NCs are well studied, their application in commercial products is hampered by the presence of the toxic heavy metal ion cadmium. Due to similar optical properties InP NCs are a promising alternative but still facing three major challenges in their synthesis: i) polydispersity, ii) NCs with PL in the NIR region and iii) synthesis of multidimensional NCs. In the iNano project a new synthesis protocol will be established based on a seeded-growth method, which will allow the preparation of monodisperse isotropic and for the first time also of anisotropic InP based NCs. This will be possible by the use of heteroelement seeds (zinc chalcogenides), whose structures govern the InP growth kinetics and shape. The dependency of the PL on the thickness of the InP layer will allow to push the PL to the NIR. By in depth photophysical characterization on the ensemble and single-particle level and also regarding their non-linear properties, unique insights will be gained leading to a better understanding of the optoelectronic transitions and the influence of the shape on the optical properties.
iNano will shed a first light into the versatility of the InP NCs for neuroscience, investigating their performance under one-photon and multiphoton excitation to record and stimulate neuron activity. Due to the higher voltage sensitivity, better chemical stability, and negligible photobleaching effects, these nanomaterials are more attractive than up to know used tools for the measurement of the electric field generated by an action potential. The lower toxicity of the InP NCs will making the here developed protocols of high interest to neuroscientist and for the Eu initiative ""Human Brain Project""."


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
Unter den eichen 87
12205 Berlin

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Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00