Multicolor Fluorescent Semiconducting Polymer Dots with Narrow Emissions and High Brightness

Fluorescent semiconducting polymer dots (Pdots) have attracted great interest because of their superior characteristics as fluorescent probes, such as high fluorescence brightness, fast radiative rates, and excellent photostability. However, currently available Pdots generally exhibit broad emission spectra, which significantly limit their usefulness in many biological applications involving multiplex detections. Here, we describe the design and development of multicolor narrow emissive Pdots based on different boron dipyrromethene (BODIPY) units. BODIPY-containing semiconducting polymers emitting at multiple wavelengths were synthesized and used as precursors for preparing the Pdots, where intraparticle energy transfer led to highly bright, narrow emissions. The emission full width at half-maximum of the resulting Pdots varies from 40 to 55 nm, which is 1.5–2 times narrower than those of conventional semiconducting polymer dots. BODIPY 520 Pdots were about an order of magnitude brighter than commercial Qdot 525 under identical laser excitation conditions. Fluorescence imaging and flow cytometry experiments indicate that the narrow emissions from these bright Pdots are promising for multiplexed biological detections.