As molecular labels for cells and tissues, fluorescent probes have shaped our understanding of biological structures and processes. However, their capacity for quantitative analysis is limited because photon emission rates from multicolour fluorophores are dissimilar, unstable and often unpredictable, which obscures correlations between measured fluorescence and molecular concentration. Here we introduce a new class of light-emitting quantum dots with tunable and equalized fluorescence brightness across a broad range of colours. The key feature is independent tunability of emission wavelength, extinction coefficient and quantum yield through distinct structural domains in the nanocrystal. Precise tuning eliminates a 100-fold red-to-green brightness mismatch of size-tuned quantum dots at the ensemble and single-particle levels, which substantially improves quantitative imaging accuracy in biological tissue. We anticipate that these materials engineering principles will vastly expand the optical engineering landscape of fluorescent probes, facilitate quantitative multicolour imaging in living tissue and improve colour tuning in light-emitting devices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)