Responsive Nanogel Probe for Ratiometric Fluorescent Sensing of pH and Strain in Hydrogels

Mingning Zhu, Dongdong Lu, Shanglin Wu, Qing Lian, Wenkai Wang, Amirhossein Milani, Zhengxing Cui, Nam Nguyen, Mu Chen, Andrew Lyon, Daman Adlam, Anthony Freemont, Judith Hoyland, Brian Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study a new pH-responsive nanogel probe containing a complementary nonradiative resonance energy transfer (NRET) fluorophore pair is investigated and its ability to act as a versatile probe of network-related changes in three hydrogels demonstrated. Fluorescent sensing using NRET is a powerful method for studying relationships between Angstrom length-scale structure and macroscopic properties of soft matter. Unfortunately, inclusion of NRET fluorophores into such materials requires material-specific chemistry. Here, low concentrations of preformed nanogel probes were included into hydrogel hosts. Ratiometric photoluminescence (PL) data for the gels labeled with the nanogel probes enabled pH-triggered swelling and deswelling to be studied as well as Ca2+-triggered collapse and solute release. PL measurements during compression of a nanogel probe-labeled nanocomposite gel demonstrated mechanochromic behavior and strain sensing. The new nanogel probes have excellent potential for investigating the internal structures of gels and provide a versatile ratiometric fluorescent platform for studying pH and strain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245–1250
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number11
Early online date25 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017


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