The development of optical organic nanoparticles (NPs) is desirable and widely studied. However, most organic dyes are water-insoluble such that the derivatization and modification of these dyes are difficult. Herein, we demonstrated a simple platform for the fabrication of organic NPs designed with emissive properties by loading ten different organic dyes (molar masses of 479.1–1081.7 g/mol) into water-soluble polymer nanosponges composed of poly(styrene-alt-maleic acid) (PSMA). The result showed a substantial improvement over the loading of commercial dyes (3.7–50% loading) while preventing their spontaneous aggregation in aqueous solutions. This packaging strategy includes our newly synthesized organic dyes (> 85% loading) designed for OPVs (242), DSSCs (YI-1, YI-3, YI-8), and OLEDs (ADF-1–3, and DTDPTID) applications. These low-cytotoxicity organic NPs exhibited tunable fluorescence from visible to near-infrared (NIR) emission for cellular imaging and biological tracking in vivo. Moreover, PSMA NPs loaded with designed NIR-dyes were fabricated, and photodynamic therapy with these dye-loaded PSMA NPs for the photolysis of cancer cells was achieved when coupled with 808 nm laser excitation. Indeed, our work demonstrates a facile approach for increasing the biocompatibility and stability of organic dyes by loading them into water-soluble polymer-based carriers, providing a new perspective of organic optoelectronic materials in biomedical theranostic applications.
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