Two-photon absorbing dye, Hydrophilic fluorene derivative, Fluorescence bioimaging probe, Metal ion sensing, Zinc and mercury sensing, 1, 2, 3-triazole derivative


In this work, hydrophilic fluorene-based derivatives that contain ethylene oxide substituents, have been synthesized and characterized for potential use as new fluorophores for bioimaging applications and for fluorescence sensing of heavy metals. Symmetrical and unsymmetrical fluorene derivatives based on structural types of acceptor-pi-acceptor, acceptor-pi-donor, and donor-pi-donor were characterized by TGA, UV-vis absorption, fluorescence emission, lifetime, anisotropy, and two-photon absorption (2PA) cross section. They were found to possess high thermal stability, high photostability, high fluorescence quantum yields, and generally large two-photon absorption cross sections, making them quite suitable for new probes in single-photon absorption and two-photon absorption fluorescence microscopy imaging. Novel hydrophilic fluorene derivatives were synthesized from fluorene in multiple steps employing the metal-catalyzed Heck coupling reaction, the Stille reaction, the Sonogashira reaction, the Ullmann condensation reaction, and "click" chemistry. To increase the hydrophilicity of the new compounds, ethylene oxide substituents were utilized for to impart water solubility. An alternative alkylation methodology using ethyleneoxy tosylates was introduced for the synthesis of ethylene oxide-containing fluorene derivatives. Several of these hydrophilic derivatives were incubated into various cell lines as new probes for both conventional and two-photon absorption fluorescence bioimaging. These compounds were biocompatible, exhibiting low cytotoxicity as determined by cell viability studies, and displayed colocalization for selected cellular organelles. In addition, hydrophilic bis(1,2,3-triazolyl)fluorene derivatives were found to exhibit sensitive fluorescence responses in the presence of certain heavy metal, and were selective for sensing zinc and mercury over other a number of other metal ions relevant to living cells or other biological environments. The UV-vis absorption and fluorescence emission spectra of the complexes exhibited a blue-shifted absorption and emission for selective metal chelation upon binding to zinc and mercury(II) ions, resulting in an approximately two-fold enhanced fluorescence response. Fluorescence titration studies revealed that the complexes of 1:2 and 1:3 ligand to metal formed with binding constant values of 108 and 1014 for zinc and mercury ions, respectively. Finally, preliminary experiments were performed to explore the possibility of employing select hydrophilic fluorene-based derivatives in the synthesis of hydrophilic fluorescent gold nanoparticles. Although results are very preliminary, the aim is to use such materials for other biomedical applications, such as surface enhanced scattering resonance and noninvasive photothermal therapy to diagnose and to treat cancers. Thus, this research had led to the discovery of alternative methodologies for synthesis of hydrophilic fluorene derivatives by alkylation with alkyl tosylates and synthesis of hydrophilic fluorescent molecule capped gold nanoparticles. Furthermore, several novel hydrophilic fluorene-based derivatives were synthesized and characterized for their linear and nonlinear photophysical properties, and are now available for further examination of their bioimaging and sensing applications.


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Graduation Date



Belfield, Kevin


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

November 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Chemistry Commons