Permanent excimer superstructures by supramolecular networking of metal quantum clusters

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Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 571-575
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf4924

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Long-life excimer-like structures

Metal quantum clusters have ideal properties for medical applications such as imaging. The challenge is to prolong their transient properties for the fabrication of useful devices. Santiago-Gonzalez et al. arranged gold clusters in a supramolecular lattice held together by hydrogen bonding and showed that this material can be used for imaging of fibroblast cells. In the superstructure, the gold molecules can come together in the excited state as excimers and then dissociate to emit radiation. Because they are within a lattice, this behavior shows long-term stability. Furthermore, the lattice superstructure scavenges reactive oxygen species and reduces cell damage.

Science, this issue p. 571


Excimers are evanescent quasi-particles that typically form during collisional intermolecular interactions and exist exclusively for their excited-state lifetime. We exploited the distinctive structure of metal quantum clusters to fabricate permanent excimer-like colloidal superstructures made of ground-state noninteracting gold cores, held together by a network of hydrogen bonds between their capping ligands. This previously unknown aggregation state of matter, studied through spectroscopic experiments and ab initio calculations, conveys the photophysics of excimers into stable nanoparticles, which overcome the intrinsic limitation of excimers in single-particle applications—that is, their nearly zero formation probability in ultra-diluted solutions. In vitro experiments demonstrate the suitability of the superstructures as nonresonant intracellular probes and further reveal their ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species, which enhances their potential as anticytotoxic agents for biomedical applications.

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