Interfacing molecular machines to inorganic nanoparticles can, in principle, lead to hybrid nanomachines with extended functions. Here we demonstrate a ligand engineering approach to develop atomically precise hybrid nanomachines by interfacing gold nanoclusters with tetraphenylethylene molecular rotors. When gold nanoclusters are irradiated with near-infrared light, the rotation of surface-decorated tetraphenylethylene moieties actively dissipates the absorbed energy to sustain the photothermal nanomachine with an intact structure and steady efficiency. Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance and femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy reveal that the photogenerated hot electrons are rapidly cooled down within picoseconds via electron–phonon coupling in the nanomachine. We find that the nanomachine remains structurally and functionally intact in mammalian cells and in vivo. A single dose of near-infrared irradiation can effectively ablate tumours without recurrence in tumour-bearing mice, which shows promise in the development of nanomachine-based theranostics.
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All data supporting the findings in this study are available within the Article and its Supplementary Information. Raw data of all the histology images are available via Figshare at https://figshare.com/s/83838f30afc8b88da550. The crystallographic data for the structures reported in this Article have been deposited at the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, under deposition number CCDC 2286681. Additional raw data generated in this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request. Source data are provided with this paper.
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We thank W. Xu for help with the NMR data analysis. This work was financially supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2020YFA0908104, to J.S.), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21904087, to J.S.; 21834007, to C.F.; 21991134, to C.F.; 91953106, to J.S.; 21934007 and 92056117, to X.L.; 22022410, to Y. Zhu; 82050005, to Y. Zhu; T2188102, to C.F.), the Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission (21QA1404800, to J.S.; 22JC1401203, to Y. Zhu; 20dz1101000 and 20dz1101001, to C.F.; 20dz1101002, to J.S.), Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Functional Aggregate Materials (ZDSYS20211021111400001, to B.Z.T), the Science Technology Innovation Commission of Shenzhen Municipality (KQTD20210811090142053, to B.Z.T) and the New Cornerstone Science Foundation (to C.F.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Chen, J., Gu, P., Ran, G. et al. Atomically precise photothermal nanomachines. Nat. Mater. (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-023-01721-y