Optimising passivation shell thickness of single upconversion nanoparticles using a time-resolved spectrometer

Xiaoxue Xu, Zhiguang Zhou, Yongtao Liu, Shihui Wen, Zhiyong Guo, Laixu Gao, Fan Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Lanthanide-doped upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) are the most efficient multi-photon probe that can be used for deep tissue bio-imaging, fluorescence microscopy, and single molecule sensing applications. Passivating UCNPs with inert shell has been demonstrated to be an effective method to significantly enhance their brightness. However, this method also increases the overall size of the nanoparticles, which limited their cellular applications. Current reports to optimise the thickness of the shell are based on the spectrum measurement of ensembles of UCNPs, which are less quantitative. The characterisation of single UCNPs would be desirable, but is limited by the sensitivity of conventional spectrometers. We developed an optical filter-based spectrometer coupled to a laser scanning microscopy system and achieved a high degree of sensitivity - seven times more than the traditional amount. Through highly controlled syntheses of a range Yb 3+ and Tm 3+ doped UCNPs with different shell thickness, quantitative characterization of the emission intensity and lifetime on single UCNPs were comprehensively studied using a home-made optical system. We found that the optimal shell thickness was 6.3 nm. We further demonstrated that the system was sensitive enough to measure the time-resolved spectrum from a single UCNP, which is significantly useful for a comprehensive study of the energy transfer process of UCNPs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number026104
Number of pages8
JournalAPL photonics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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