Low-temperature open-air synthesis of PVP-coated NaYF 4:Yb,Er,Mn upconversion nanoparticles with strong red emission

Lewis E. MacKenzie, Diana Alvarez-Ruiz, Robert Pal

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Cubic (α-phase) NaYF4:Yb,Er upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) are uniquely suited to biophotonics and biosensing applications due to their near-infrared excitation and visible red emission (λex approx. 660 nm), enabling detection via thick overlying tissue with no bio-autofluorescence. However, UCNP synthesis typically requires high temperatures in combination with either high pressure reaction vessels or an inert atmosphere. Here, we report synthesis of α-phase NaYF4:Yb,Er,Mn UCNPs via the considerably more convenient PVP40-mediated route; a strategy that requires modest temperatures and relatively short reaction time (160°C, 2 h) in open air, with Mn2+ co-doping serving to greatly enhance red emission. The optimal Mn2+ co-doping level was found to be 35 mol %, which decreased the average maximum UCNP Feret diameter from 42 ± 11 to 36 ± 15 nm; reduced the crystal lattice parameter, a, from 5.52 to 5.45 Å; and greatly enhanced UCNP red/green emission ratio in EtOH by a factor of 5.6. The PVP40 coating enabled dispersal in water and organic solvents and can be exploited for further surface modification (e.g. silica shell formation). We anticipate that this straightforward UCNP synthesis method for producing strongly red-emitting UCNPs will be particularly beneficial for deep tissue biophotonics and biosensing applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number211508
Number of pages13
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • chemistry
  • upconversion nanoparticles
  • polyvinylpyrrolidone
  • nanoparticle synthesis
  • near-infrared excitation
  • red emission
  • photonic upconversion


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