Nano Research

Article Title

Two-color spectroscopy of UV excited ssDNA complex with a single-wall nanotube photoluminescence probe: Fast relaxation by nucleobase autoionization mechanism


single-wall nanotube, optical spectroscopy, two-color spectroscopy, DNA autoionization, DNA ultraviolet (UV) excitation, quantum-mechanical modeling


DNA autoionization is a fundamental process wherein ultraviolet (UV)- photoexcited nucleobases dissipate energy by charge transfer to the environment without undergoing chemical damage. Here, single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) are explored as a photoluminescent reporter for the study of the mechanism and rates of DNA autoionization. Two-color photoluminescence spectroscopy allows separate photoexcitation of the DNA and the SWNTs in the UV and visible range, respectively. A strong SWNT photoluminescence quenching is observed when the UV pump is resonant with the DNA absorption, consistent with charge transfer from the excited states of the DNA to the SWNT. Semiempirical calculations of the DNA-SWNT electronic structure, combined with a Green’s function theory for charge transfer, show a 20 fs autoionization rate, dominated by hole transfer. Rate-equation analysis of the spectroscopy data confirms that the quenching rate is limited by thermalization of the free charge carriers transferred to the nanotube reservoir. This approach has great potential for monitoring DNA excitation, autoionization, and chemical damage, both in vivo and in vitro.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press