Monitoring solute interactions with poly(ethylene oxide)-modified colloidal silica nanoparticles via fluorescence anisotropy decay.
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The fluorescence-based nanosize metrology approach, proposed recently by Geddes and Birch (Geddes, C. D.; Birch, D. J. S. J. Non-Cryst. Solids 2000, 270, 191), was used to characterize the extent of binding of a fluorescent cationic solute, rhodamine 6G (R6G), to the surface of silica particles after modification of the surface with the hydrophilic polymer poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) of various molecular weights. The measurement of the rotational dynamics of R6G in PEO solutions showed the absence of strong interactions between R6G and PEO chains in water and the ability of the dye to sense the presence of polymer clusters in 30 wt % solutions. Time-resolved anisotropy decays of polymer-modified Ludox provided direct evidence for distribution of the dye between bound and free states, with the bound dye showing two decay components: a nanosecond decay component that is consistent with local motions of bound probes and a residual anisotropy component due to slow rotation of large silica particles. The data showed that the dye was strongly adsorbed to unmodified silica nanoparticles, to the extent that less than 1% of the dye was present in the surrounding aqueous solution. Addition of PEO blocked the adsorption of the dye to a significant degree, with up to 50% of the probe being present in the aqueous solution for Ludox samples containing 30 wt % of low molecular weight PEO. The addition of such agents also decreased the value and increased the fractional contribution of the nanosecond rotational correlation time, suggesting that polymer adsorption altered the degree of local motion of the bound probe. Atomic force microscopy imaging studies provided no evidence for a change in the particle size upon surface modification but did suggest interparticle aggregation after polymer adsorption. Thus, this redistribution of the probe is interpreted as being due to coverage of particles with the polymer, resulting in lower adsorption of R6G to the silica. The data clearly show the power of time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy decay measurements for probing the modification of silica surfaces and suggest that this method should prove useful in characterization of new chromatographic stationary phases and nanocomposite materials.
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