Luminescent upconversion nanocrystals (UCNCs) have become one of the most promising nanomaterials for biosensing, imaging, and theranostics. However, their ultimate translation into robust luminescent probes for daily use in biological and medical laboratories requires comprehension and control of the many possible deactivation pathways that cause upconversion luminescence (UCL) quenching. Here, we demonstrate that thorough modeling of UCL rise and decay kinetics using a freely accessible software can identify the UCL quenching mechanisms in small (<40 nm) UCNCs with spatial and temporal resolution. Applied to the most relevant β-NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ UCNCs, our model showed that only a few distinct nonradiative low-energy transitions were deactivated via specific solvent and ligand vibrations with a strong downstream effect on the population and depopulation dynamics of the emitting states. UCL quenching could penetrate ca. 4 nm inside the UCNC, which resulted in significant size-dependent changes of UCL intensities and spectra. Despite the large surface-to-volume ratios and UCL quenching via the UCNC surface, we found strong contributions of the outer layers to the overall UCL, which will be highly important for the design of UCNPs to investigate biomolecular interactions via distance-dependent energy transfer methods. Our advanced kinetic model is easily scalable to different UCNC architectures, environments, and energy transfer interactions such that relatively simple modeling of UCL kinetics can be used for efficiently optimizing UCNCs for their final application as practical luminescent probes.

Spatial and Temporal Resolution of Luminescence Quenching in Small Upconversion Nanocrystals

Pini, Federico
Investigation
;
Peruffo, Nicola
Investigation
;
Barbon, Antonio
Formal Analysis
;
Natile, Marta Maria
Conceptualization
2022

Abstract

Luminescent upconversion nanocrystals (UCNCs) have become one of the most promising nanomaterials for biosensing, imaging, and theranostics. However, their ultimate translation into robust luminescent probes for daily use in biological and medical laboratories requires comprehension and control of the many possible deactivation pathways that cause upconversion luminescence (UCL) quenching. Here, we demonstrate that thorough modeling of UCL rise and decay kinetics using a freely accessible software can identify the UCL quenching mechanisms in small (<40 nm) UCNCs with spatial and temporal resolution. Applied to the most relevant β-NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ UCNCs, our model showed that only a few distinct nonradiative low-energy transitions were deactivated via specific solvent and ligand vibrations with a strong downstream effect on the population and depopulation dynamics of the emitting states. UCL quenching could penetrate ca. 4 nm inside the UCNC, which resulted in significant size-dependent changes of UCL intensities and spectra. Despite the large surface-to-volume ratios and UCL quenching via the UCNC surface, we found strong contributions of the outer layers to the overall UCL, which will be highly important for the design of UCNPs to investigate biomolecular interactions via distance-dependent energy transfer methods. Our advanced kinetic model is easily scalable to different UCNC architectures, environments, and energy transfer interactions such that relatively simple modeling of UCL kinetics can be used for efficiently optimizing UCNCs for their final application as practical luminescent probes.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3419848
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