Campus Units

Chemical and Biological Engineering

Document Type


Research Focus Area

Advanced and Nanostructured Materials, Health Care Technology and Biomedical Engineering

Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical

First Page





Colloidal silicon crystallites in the size range of 1-12 nm, also referred to as “silicon nanocrystals” have unique optical properties that include high quantum efficiency, size-dependent emission spanning the visible to near-infrared range, and robust photostability. These features, combined with silicon’s high earth-abundance and good biocompatibility, make them an attractive option to serve as signal transduction elements in bioanalytical sensors. In this study, we combine silicon nanocrystals with a sodium-selective ionophore and a charge balancing additive in polymeric nanosensors to create a Silicon Nanocrystal NanoSensor (SiNC-NS). The SiNC-NS responded to sodium through a decrease in fluorescence intensity without the inclusion of a pH-sensitive absorbing dye which is sometimes included in analogous sensors for signal gating, leading to a sensor design with more photostable components. The SiNC-NS has a biologically relevant dynamic range of 4 – 277 mM Na+, is selective against potentially interfering cations, and its response is reversible between 0 and 2 M Na+ for at least three cycles. This work shows the first sodium-responsive silicon nanocrystal-based sensor, the first use of silicon nanocrystals in polymeric nanosensors, and demonstrates an intriguing ionophore-mediated response in silicon nanocrystals to be explored further in the future.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Ferris, Mark S., Ashley P. Chesney, Bradley J. Ryan, Utkarsh Ramesh, Matthew G. Panthani, and Kevin J. Cash. "Silicon Nanocrystals as Signal Transducers in Ionophore-Based Fluorescent Nanosensors." Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical (2020): 129350. DOI: 10.1016/j.snb.2020.129350.


Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.



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Published Version