Different methods of synthesis for the production of electroactive nanocrystals (NCs) for use as labels in DNA sensing systems are presented. They are based on two general ways of controlling the formation and growth of the nanoparticles: (a) physical restriction of the volume available for the growth of the individual nanoparticles by using templates such as reverse micelles; (b) arrested precipitation that depends on exhaustion of one of the reactants. The water dispersed nanocrystals thus obtained are then characterized by optical or electrochemical techniques so as to evaluate the quality of the prepared NCs. A novel direct electrochemical stripping detection protocol that involves the use of a bismuth modified graphite epoxy composite electrode is developed and applied so as to quantify the CdS NCs. The electrochemical study revealed a linear dependency of the stripping current upon the concentration of CdS NCs with a detection limit of around 1015 CdS NCs cm-3. The obtained NCs are of great interest for future applications in electrochemical genosensors. © 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd.