Versatile Prepolymer Platform for Controlled Tailoring of Quantum Dot Surface Properties

Ju Yeon Lee, Giselle Soares, Calvin Doty, Joonhyuck Park, Jack Hovey, Alex Schrader, Hee Sun Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantum dots (QDs) hold immense promise for bioimaging, yet technical challenges in surface engineering limit their wider scientific use. We introduce poly(pentafluorophenyl acrylate) (PPFPA) as a user-friendly prepolymer platform for creating precisely controlled multidentate polymeric ligands for QD surface engineering, accessible to researchers without extensive synthetic expertise. PPFPA combines the benefits of both bottom-up and prepolymer approaches, offering minimal susceptibility to hydrolysis and side reactions for controlled chemical composition, along with simple synthetic procedures using commercially available reagents. Live cell imaging experiments highlighted a significant reduction in nonspecific binding when employing PPFPA, owing to its minimal hydrolysis, in contrast to ligands synthesized by using a conventional prepolymer prone to uncontrolled hydrolysis. This observation underscores the distinct advantage of our prepolymer system. Leveraging PPFPA, we synthesized biomolecule-conjugated QDs and performed QD-based immunofluorescence to detect a cytosolic protein. To effectively label cytosolic targets in such a dense and complex environment, probes must exhibit minimal nonspecific binding and be compact. As a result, QD-immunofluorescence has focused primarily on cell surface targets. By creating compact QD-F(ab′)2, we sensitively detected alpha-tubulin with a ∼50-fold higher signal-to-noise ratio compared to organic dye-based labeling. PPFPA represents a versatile and accessible platform for tailoring QD surfaces, offering a pathway to realize the full potential of colloidal QDs in various scientific applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15202-15214
Number of pages13
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 27 2024


  • bioimaging
  • controllability
  • ligands
  • prepolymer
  • quantum dots
  • surface engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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