Functional composite materials that can change their spectral properties in response to external stimuli have a plethora of applications in fields ranging from sensors to biomedical imaging. One of the most promising types of materials used to design spectrally active composites are fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), noncovalently functionalized by synthetic amphiphilic polymers. These coated SWCNTs can exhibit modulations in their fluorescence spectra in response to interactions with target analytes. Hence, identifying new amphiphiles with interchangeable building blocks that can form individual coronae around the SWCNTs and can be tailored for a specific application is of great interest. This study presents highly modular amphiphilic polymer-dendron hybrids, composed of hydrophobic dendrons and hydrophilic polyethylene glycol (PEG) that can be synthesized with a high degree of structural freedom, for suspending SWCNTs in aqueous solution. Taking advantage of the high molecular precision of these PEG-dendrons, we show that precise differences in the chemical structure of the hydrophobic end groups of the dendrons can be used to control the interactions of the amphiphiles with the SWCNT surface. These interactions can be directly related to differences in the intrinsic near-infrared fluorescence emission of the various chiralities in a SWCNT sample. Utilizing the susceptibility of the PEG-dendrons toward enzymatic degradation, we demonstrate the ability to monitor enzymatic activity through changes in the SWCNT fluorescent signal. These findings pave the way for a rational design of functional SWCNTs, which can be used for optical sensing of enzymatic activity in the near-infrared spectral range.
- dendritic amphiphiles
- enzyme-responsive materials
- fluorescent nanoparticles
- optical nanosensors
- single-walled carbon nanotubes