Abstract Microgels were prepared within reverse micelles via photocrosslinking. Gelation resulted from the [2 + 2] photodimerization reaction of nitrocinnamoyl (NC) groups on multi-arm polyethylene glycol (PEG) or gelatin. Because of the potential for biomedical and chemical applications, immobilization capacity within the microgels was investigated. Quantum dots (QDs), for example, share a similar size scale with proteins and can be physically trapped within the microgels. In addition, the optoelectronic properties of QDs could be utilized for analytical, imaging, and therapeutic purposes. Small molecules and recognition sequences (e.g. biotin) can also be covalently immobilized within the microgel networks through the photodimerization reaction. In the presence of biotin-PEG-NC, the resulting microgels added to streptavidin-coated plates. The microgel properties such as biodegradability and degree of swelling may be engineered for particular applications including targeted monitoring and controlled drug delivery systems.