Novel citric acid based photoluminescent dyes and biodegradable polymers are synthesized via a facile “one-pot” reaction. A comprehensive understanding of the fluorescence mechanisms of the resulting citric acid-based fluorophores is reported. Two distinct types of fluorophores are identified: a thiozolopyridine family with high quantum yield, long lifetime, and exceptional photostability, and a dioxopyridine family with relatively lower quantum yield, multiple lifetimes, and solvent-dependent band shifting behavior. Applications in molecular labeling and cell imaging were demonstrated. The above discoveries contribute to the field of fluorescence chemistry and have laid a solid foundation for further development of new fluorophores and materials that show promise in a diversity of fluorescence-based applications. Statement of Significance Photoluminescent materials are pivotal for fluorescence based imaging, labeling and sensing applications. Understanding their fluorescence mechanism is challenging and imperative. We develop a new class of citric acid-derived fluorescent materials in forms of polymers and small molecular dyes by a one-step solvent free reaction. We discovered two different classes of citric acid-derived fluorophores. A two-ring thiozolopyridine structure demonstrates strong fluorescence and exceptional resistance to photo-bleaching. A one-ring dioxopyridine exhibits relative weak fluorescence but with intriguing excitation and solvent-dependent emission wavelength shifting. Our methodology of synthesizing citric acid-derived fluorophores and the understanding on their luminescence are instrumental to the design and production of a large number of new photoluminescent materials for biological and biomedical applications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Molecular Biology