Magnetic and fluorescent core-shell nanoparticles for ratiometric pH sensing

Alejandro Lapresta-Fernández, Tristan Doussineau, Silvio Dutz, Frank Steiniger, Artur J. Moro, Gerhard J. Mohr

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36 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes the preparation of nanoparticles composed of a magnetic core surrounded by two successive silica shells embedding two fluorophores, showing uniform nanoparticle size (50-60nm in diameter) and shape, which allow ratiometric pH measurements in the pH range 5-8. Uncoated iron oxide magnetic nanoparticles (∼10nm in diameter) were formed by the coprecipitation reaction of ferrous and ferric salts. Then, they were added to a water-in-oil microemulsion where the hydrophilic silica shells were obtained through hydrolysis and condensation of tetraethoxyorthosilicate together with the corresponding silylated dye derivatives - a sulforhodamine was embedded in the inner silica shell and used as the reference dye while a pH-sensitive fluorescein was incorporated in the outer shell as the pH indicator. The magnetic nanoparticles were characterized using vibrating sample magnetometry, dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The relationship between the analytical parameter, that is, the ratio of fluorescence between the sensing and reference dyes versus the pH was adjusted to a sigmoidal fit using a Boltzmann type equation giving an apparent pKa value of 6.8. The fluorescence intensity of the reference dye did not change significantly (∼3.0%) on modifying the pH of the nanoparticle dispersion. Finally, the proposed method was statistically validated against a reference procedure using samples of water and physiological buffer with 2% of horse serum, indicating that there are no significant statistical differences at a 95% confidence level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number415501
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2011


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