Quantum dots - molecular lanterns

Glowing nanocrystals in medical and environmental research

Quantum dots are tiny nanocrystals made of semiconductor materials and have a special property: they glow! When stimulated by light, quantum dots can therefore be recognized like a "fingerprint". This property makes them interesting for medical and environmental research, for example, as fluorescent markers for labeling cells, as contrast agents in imaging of tumor and deep tissue, or in biosensors and targeted drug delivery. 

Quantum dots could be used as detectable and uniquely identifiable so-called "nanotracers" to mark or locate specific targets, or to derive general information about the fate of synthetic nanoparticles in environmentally relevant media, such as wastewater.

Quantum dots are also already being used in everyday products such as televisions or solar cells. As the number of areas of application and the corresponding increase in production volumes intensifies, so does the potential spread. Since unintentional release and resulting negative effects cannot be ruled out, the risks to humans and the environment are also increasing. To date, however, only limited data exist on potential environmental and health risks.

The complete NanoTrust Dossier 59 on the topic by Anna Pavlicek, Florian Part and Eva-Kathrin Ehmoser is available for download.