Fluorescent nanoparticle-based imaging probes have advanced current labelling technology and are expected to generate new medical diagnostic tools based on their superior brightness and photostability compared with conventional molecular probes. Although significant progress has been made in fluorescent semiconductor nanocrystal-based biological labelling and imaging, the presence of heavy metals and the toxicity issues associated with heavy metals have severely limited the application potential of these nanocrystals. Here, we report a fluorescent carbon nanoparticle-based, alternative, nontoxic imaging probe that is suitable for biological staining and diagnostics. We have developed a chemical method to synthesise highly fluorescent carbon nanoparticles 1-10 nm in size; these particles exhibit size-dependent, tunable visible emission. These carbon nanoparticles have been transformed into various functionalised nanoprobes with hydrodynamic diameters of 5-15 nm and have been used as cell imaging probes.
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