A series of ring-substituted squaraines absorbing and emitting in the red and NIR spectral region was synthesized and their spectral and photophysical properties (quantum yields, fluorescence lifetimes) and photostabilities were measured and compared to Cy5, a commonly used fluorescent label. The absorption maxima in aqueous media were found to be between 628 and 667nm and the emission maxima are between 642 and 685nm. Squaraine dyes exhibit high extinction coefficients (163,000–265,000M −1 cm −1 ) and lower quantum yields (2–7%) in aqueous buffer but high quantum yields (up to 45%) and long fluorescence lifetimes (up to 3.3ns) in presence of BSA. Dicyanomethylene- and thio-substituted squaraines exhibit an additional absorption around 400nm with extinction coefficients between 21,500 and 44,500M −1 cm −1 . These dyes are excitable not only with red but also with blue diode lasers or light emitting diodes. Due to the favourable spectral and photophysical properties these dyes can be used as fluorescent probes and labels for intensity- and fluorescence lifetime-based biomedical applications.
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