Influence of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) in the synthesis of luminescent NaYF4:Yb,Er upconversion nanoparticles

Ross Birch, Jochen Bruckbauer, Marta Gajewska, Grzegorz Cios, Robert Pal, Lewis E MacKenzie

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Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) can be used to produce upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) in an advantageous manner, i.e. at modest temperatures in open-to-air conditions with simple hotplate and flask apparatus. However, the influence of PVP parameters on the formation of UCNPs has not been previously investigated. In this exploratory study, we establish that PVP molecular weight and relative amount of PVP can greatly influence the morphology and diameter of NaYF4:Yb,Er UCNPs produced via the PVP-assisted route. At nominal amounts of PVP, varying the molecular weight of PVP in synthesis between 10,000 g/mol (PVP10), 40,000 g/mol (PVP40), and 55,000 g/mol (PVP55), had minimal effect on UCNP morphology, whereas reducing the quantity of PVP10 and PVP40 in the reaction to 10% of the nominal amount resulted in two notable effects: (1) the generation of a greater range of UCNP diameters and (2) the production of an unexpected sub-population of rhombus-shaped UCNPs. Bulk and individual nanoparticle analysis indicates that all UCNP morphologies were cubic (α-phase) crystal structure and consisted of NaYF4:Yb,Er. Optical emission properties exhibited only modest green and red luminescence emission ratio when PVP parameters were varied. However, separately produced PVP40 NaYF4:Yb,Tm UCNPs exhibited a much more intense and dual-band blue /red emission. This exploratory work demonstrates that tailoring PVP content in synthesis of UCNPs can greatly alter morphology of UCNPs produced and should be carefully considered in experimental design. However, the underlying mechanisms of action of the role PVP plays in this synthesis remain unclear. Ultimately, significant further work is still required to fully elucidate the relevant chemistry to achieve full control of PVP-UCNP synthesis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number034001
Number of pages16
JournalMethods and Applications in Fluorescence
Issue number3
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2023


  • polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)
  • upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs)
  • polymers


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