Evidence for Rigid Binding of Rhodamine 6G to Silica Surfaces in Aqueous Solution Based on Fluorescence Anisotropy Decay Analysis
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Strong ionic binding of the cationic probe rhodamine 6G (R6G) to the anionic surface of silica particles in water provides a convenient labeling procedure to study both particle growth kinetics and surface modification by time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy (TRFA). The decays for R6G dispersed in diluted Ludox silica sols usually fit to a sum of picosecond and nanosecond decay components, along with a significant residual anisotropy component. The origin of the nanosecond decay component (phi2) is not fully understood, and has been ascribed to wobbling of the probe on the silica surface, the presence of a subpopulation of small nanoparticles in the Ludox sol, or rapid exchange between free and bound R6G. To elucidate the physical meaning of phi2, measurements were performed in various silica-based colloidal systems using different concentrations of silica. We found that the fraction of phi2 was generally higher in Ludox than in aqueous sodium silicate and decreased with increasing silica concentration; phi2 vanished upon gelation of sodium silicate at pH 7 leading to a total loss of R6G depolarization (r(t) = const). These results rule out the presence of local R6G wobbling when bound ionically to colloidal silica and support the rigid sphere model to describe the TRFA decays for R6G-Ludox. This conclusion is entirely supported by steady-state anisotropy data and structural considerations for the R6G molecule and the silica surface.
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