In this eerie and (unintentionally) Halloween-themed edition of Chemistry in Pictures, Jon Grimm used a UV light, a time-lapse camera, and a silica column to purify a fluorescent dye that he helped develop at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in the lab of Luke Lavis. One of the steps in synthesizing these dyes involves adding an amine (azetidine in this reaction, shown above) to the dye’s carbon scaffold using a palladium-catalyzed reaction. It’s the product of that reaction that Grimm was running through this silica column. The hallmark of the unusually bright so-called Janelia Fluor dyes is the straightforward pathway for changing the color that these molecules emit when they glow. By swapping out the azetidine for a different amine or swapping one of the oxygen atoms for a silicon, the color that the dyes fluoresce can be predictably fine-tuned, which makes the rainbow of Janelia Fluor dyes useful in complex imaging experiments in which many distinct fluorescent markers are needed.
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