Research Paper

Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 405-413

First online:

Synthesis of water-dispersible photoluminescent silicon nanoparticles and their use in biological fluorescent imaging

  • Qi WangAffiliated withEnergy Materials Lab, School of Chemistry, University of East Anglia
  • , Hongjun NiAffiliated withSchool of Mechanical Engineering, Nantong University
  • , Annette PietzschAffiliated withMAX-Lab, Lund University
  • , Franz HenniesAffiliated withMAX-Lab, Lund University
  • , Yongping BaoAffiliated withBiomedical Research Centre, University of East Anglia
  • , Yimin ChaoAffiliated withEnergy Materials Lab, School of Chemistry, University of East Anglia Email author 

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Water-dispersible silicon nanoparticles (Si-NPs) are desirable for applications in biological techniques. A simplified method to synthesize such particles is reported here. The resulting Si-NPs are water-dispersible and luminescent. Under the excitation of UV light, the Si-NPs emit strong red light with a peak maximum at 606 nm and a quantum yield of 6%. They are highly stable, and remain so over several weeks. Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy shows a visible Si–CH2 scissoring vibration mode. Furthermore, the surface chemical bondings were confirmed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). In the Si2p and C1s core levels, Si–C components are observed. The diameters of the synthesized Si-NPS as measured by atomic force microscope (AFM) are approximately 5 nm. Furthermore, the nanoparticles can be taken up by cultured cells. Fluorescence images of Si-NPs within MCF-7 human breast cancer cells show they are distributed throughout the cell tissue.


Silicon nanoparticles Photoluminescence X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy Bio-imaging Nanobiology Nanomedicine