Commercially available polystyrene (PS) fluorescent microspheres are widely used in biological field for tracing, in vivo imaging and calibration of flow cytometry, amongother applications. However, these particles do suffer from some drawbacks such as the leakage and photobleaching of organic dyes within them. In the present study, inherently fluorescent properties of PS based microspheres have been explored for the first time. Here we find that a simple chloromethylation reaction endows the polystyrene particles with inherent fluorescence without any subsequent conjugation of an external fluorophore. A possible mechanism for fluorescence is elucidated by synthesizing and investigating p-ethylbenzyl chloride, a compound with similar structure. Significantly, no photobleaching or leaking issues were observed owing to the stable structure of the microspheres. Chloromethylated PS (CMPS) microspheres can keep their perpetual blue fluorescence even in dry powder state making them attractive as a potential coating material. Furthermore, the chloromethyl groups on CMPS microspheres make them very convenient for further functionalization. Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) grafted microspheres showed good biocompatibility and negligible cytotoxicity, and could be used to image intracellular Fe3+ due to the selective fluorescence quenching effect of aqueous Fe3+ in cytoplasm. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.