Staining diatoms with rhodamine dyes: control of emission colour in photonic biocomposites

The incorporation of rhodamine dyes in the cell wall of diatoms Coscinodiscus granii and Coscinodiscus wailesii for the production of luminescent hybrid nanostructures is investigated. By systematic variation of the substitution pattern of the rhodamine core, we found that carbonic acids are considerably better suited than esters because of their physiological compatibility. The amino substitution pattern that controls the optical properties of the chromophore has no critical influence on dye uptake and incorporation, thus a variety of biocomposites with different emission maxima can be prepared. Applications in biomineralization studies as well as in materials science are envisioned.