Forming biocompatible and nonaggregated nanocrystals in water using amphiphilic polymers
High-quality nanocrystals formed in organic solvents can be completely solubilized in water using amphiphilic copolymers containing poly(ethylene glycol) or PEG. These copolymers are generated using a maleic anhydride coupling scheme that permits the coupling of a wide variety of PEG polymers, both unfunctionalized and functionalized, to hydrophobic tails. Thermogravimetric analysis, size exclusion chromatography, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, and infrared spectroscopy all indicate that the copolymers effectively coat the nanocrystals surfaces. The composite nanocrystal?polymer assemblies can be targeted to recognize cancer cells with Her2 receptor and are biocompatible if their surface coatings contain PEG. In the particular case of semiconductor nanocrystals (e.g., quantum dots), the materials in water have the same optical spectra as well as quantum yield as those formed initially in organic solutions.