Emerging strategies in enhancing singlet oxygen generation of nano-photosensitizers toward advanced phototherapy

Mohammad Tavakkoli Yaraki, Bin Liu*, Yen Nee Tan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The great promise of photodynamic therapy (PDT) has thrusted the rapid progress of developing highly effective photosensitizers (PS) in killing cancerous cells and bacteria. To mitigate the intrinsic limitations of the classical molecular photosensitizers, researchers have been looking into designing new generation of nanomaterial-based photosensitizers (nano-photosensitizers) with better photostability and higher singlet oxygen generation (SOG) efficiency, and ways of enhancing the performance of existing photosensitizers. In this paper, we review the recent development of nano-photosensitizers and nanoplasmonic strategies to enhance the SOG efficiency for better PDT performance. Firstly, we explain the mechanism of reactive oxygen species generation by classical photosensitizers, followed by a brief discussion on the commercially available photosensitizers and their limitations in PDT. We then introduce three types of new generation nano-photosensitizers that can effectively produce singlet oxygen molecules under visible light illumination, i.e., aggregation-induced emission nanodots, metal nanoclusters (< 2 nm), and carbon dots. Different design approaches to synthesize these nano-photosensitizers were also discussed. To further enhance the SOG rate of nano-photosensitizers, plasmonic strategies on using different types of metal nanoparticles in both colloidal and planar metal-PS systems are reviewed. The key parameters that determine the metal-enhanced SOG (ME-SOG) efficiency and their underlined enhancement mechanism are discussed. Lastly, we highlight the future prospects of these nanoengineering strategies, and discuss how the future development in nanobiotechnology and theoretical simulation could accelerate the design of new photosensitizers and ME-SOG systems for highly effective image-guided photodynamic therapy. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number123
Pages (from-to)1-49
Number of pages49
JournalNano-Micro Letters
Issue number1
Early online date5 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Aggregation-induced emission
  • Carbon dots
  • Metal nanocluster
  • Metal-enhanced singlet oxygen generation
  • Nano-photosensitizer
  • Reactive oxygen species


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