A new look at colorful semiconductor particles for visualizing living cells
Provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific. Image by Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman/National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research
Warren Chan helped invent a research field and then watched it nearly die.
The chemist and biomedical engineer at the University of Toronto specializes in quantum dots, tiny semiconductor particles that glow in a rainbow of colors when zapped with a laser. Fifteen years ago, quantum dots were all the rage. Scientists dreamed of the wild things they could do with them (SN: 6/3/06, p. 344).
Perhaps quantum dots could glow in a futuristic, superbright television screen. Or maybe doctors could hook them to a cancer-fighting drug to watch the medicine spread through the body and attack the tumor. In 1998, Chan and Shuming Nie, then at Indiana University in Bloomington, were among the first to describe how quantum dots could light up the inner workings of living cells.
In the years since, the television screens became reality: Quantum