Fluorescence imaging in the near-infrared II (NIR-II, 1000–1700 nm) region opens up new avenues for biological systems due to suppressed scattering and low autofluorescence at longer-wavelength photons. Nonetheless, the development of organic NIR-II fluorophores is still limited mainly due to the shortage of efficient molecular design strategy. Herein, we propose an approach of designing Janus NIR-II fluorophores by introducing electronic donors with distinct properties into one molecule. As a proof-of-concept, fluorescent dye 2 TT-m, oC6B with both twisted and planar electronic donors displayed balanced absorption and emission which were absent in its parent compound. The key design strategy for Janus molecule is that it combines the merits of intense absorption from planar architecture and high fluorescence quantum yield from twisted motif. The resulting 2 TT-m, oC6B nanoparticles exhibit a high molar absorptivity of 1.12 ⨯104 M−1 cm−1 at 808 nm and a NIR-II quantum yield of 3.7%, displaying a typical aggregation-induced emission (AIE) attribute. The highly bright and stable 2 TT-m, oC6B nanoparticles assured NIR-II image-guided cancer surgery to resect submillimeter tumor nodules. The present study may inspire further development of molecular design philosophy for highly bright NIR-II fluorophores for biomedical applications.
- Aggregation-induced emission
- Image-guided surgery