2020-06-12Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/23722
Individual tubular J-aggregates stabilized and stiffened by silica encapsulation
Amphiphilic cyanine dyes in aqueous solution self-assemble into J-aggregates with diverse structures. In particular, the dye 3,3′-bis(3-sulfopropyl)-5,5′,6,6′-tetrachloro-1,1′-dioctylbenzimida-carbo-cyanine (C8S3) forms micrometer long double walled tubular J-aggregates with a uniform outer diameter of 13 ± 0.5 nm. Interestingly, these J-aggregates exhibit strong exciton delocalization and migration, similar to natural light harvesting systems. However, their structural integrity and hence their optical properties are very sensitive to their chemical environment as well as to mechanical deformation, rendering detailed studies on individual tubular J-aggregates difficult. We addressed this issue and examined a previously published route for their chemical and mechanical stabilization by in situ synthesis of a silica coating that leaves their absorbance and emission unaltered in solution. Here, we demonstrate that the silica shell with a thickness of a few nanometers is able to stabilize the tubular J-aggregates of C8S3 against changes of pH of solutions down to values where pure aggregates are oxidized, against drying under ambient conditions, and even against the vacuum conditions within an electron microscope. Dried silica–covered aggregates are brittle, as demonstrated by manipulation with a scanning force microscope on a surface. Transmission electron microscope images confirm that the thickness of the coatings is homogeneous and uniform with a thickness of less than 5 nm; scanning TEM energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy confirms the chemical composition of the shell as SiO2; and electron energy loss spectra could be recorded across a single freely suspended aggregate. Such a silica shell may not only serve for stabilization but also could be the base for further functionalization of the aggregates by either chemical attachment of other units on top of the shell or by inclusion during the synthesis.
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