Laboratory for Molecular Photonics

Department of Chemistry

University of Miami

Research within the Laboratory for Molecular Photonics is aimed at the identification of valuable strategies to manipulate molecules with photons and photons with molecules on the basis of absorption and emission processes.  The ultimate goal of these fundamental studies is the development of new phenomena and innovative materials for possible applications in biomedical research and information technology.  This experimental program demands the design and synthesis of inorganic nanoparticles, organic compounds and macromolecular constructs, their structural characterization and the investigation of their electrochemical, photochemical and photophysical properties.  In this context, the Laboratory for Molecular Photonics has already developed mechanisms to:

   perform logic operations with photochromic compounds;

   sense analytes with chromogenic and luminescent assemblies of inorganic nanoparticles and organic compounds;

   self-assemble films of electrochromic building blocks on metallic electrodes;

   switch the emission of fluorescent probes under optical control;

   transport photoresponsive molecules intracellularly with supramolecular nanocarriers and operate them in the intracellular space;

   design photochromic compounds with fast switching speeds and excellent fatigue resistances;

   activate the luminescence of biocompatible quantum dots with optical stimulations.

Current research efforts are directed to the development of nanostructured probes with activatable fluorescence specifically designed to:

   detect cancer cells with intense fluorescence signals against dark backgrounds;

   monitor cellular dynamics in developing embryos with fluorescence measurements;

  visualize cellular substructures with spatial resolution at the nanometer level.

These fundamental investigations at the intersection of chemical synthesis, photochemistry and supramolecular chemistry can ultimately lead to invaluable analytical tools for the visualization of the processes responsible for the differentiation and division of cells in real time within living organisms as well as for the detection of cancer in vivo and the intraoperative identification of malignant tissues.  Therefore, the current research efforts of the Laboratory for Molecular Photonics can have an immediate impact on biomedical research with long-term clinical and surgical implications.

The ability of molecules to absorb and emit photons can be exploited to design functional materials for biomedical research and information technology.