Brewing Up Some Quantum Dots

We’re taking a field trip from the backyard, garage, and basement hacking in order to look in on what research scientists are up to these days. A group from the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology has been manufacturing quantum dots for use in the medical field. Made up of Cadmium Selenide, this is a nanomaterial that you can think of as individual crystals of the smallest size possible. Quantum dots have many uses. Here, [Charli Dvoracek] takes the recently manufactured dots and activates them with antibodies capable of targeting cancer cells. Once mixed with a biological sample, the dots embed themselves in the walls of the cancer, allowing the researchers to find those cells thanks to the phosphorescent properties of the dots.

The video after the breaks walks us through the various steps involved in growing these dots. [Charli] has the benefit of a fully outfitted lab, using tools like an argon-filled glove box to protect her from harmful off-gases. You’re not likely have this sort of thing in your home laboratory, but as we’ve seen before, you can make some of your own equipment, and produce interesting chemicals with simple processes. If you’re someone who already tinkers with chemistry experiments we want to hear about your exploits so please drop us a tip about what you’re up to.


[Thanks Aaron]

7 thoughts on “Brewing Up Some Quantum Dots

  1. First off, Hack-a-Day, I’d love to see more chemistry articles like this one.
    So from what I’ve read, quantum dots offer better photostability and larger stokes shifts as compared to dyes like fluorescein and phycoerythrin, but how easy are they to attach to an antibody? How easy are they to functionalize, especially when starting from scratch as opposed to buying pre-functionalized labels? I’ve noticed a few companies producing them, but have never had the chance to use them.

    1. Apparently they are roughly the size of some of the fluorescent proteins currently used, and much larger than dyes like fluorescein.
      I was also unaware of this. It makes me wonder how many you can cram onto an antibody before you affect binding and solubility. I’d like to see a comparison of brightness to some common dyes. Sigma has them for around $8/mg, which is not far from the price of some of the cheaper fluorescent proteins, and way cheaper than allophycocyanin.

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