Lanthanide-doped photon upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) are capable of converting low-intensity near-infrared light to UV and visible emission through the synergistic effects of light excitation and mutual interactions between doped ions. UCNPs have attracted strong interest as unique spectrum converters and found a multitude of applications in areas like biomedical imaging, energy harvesting and information technology. UCNPs are distinct from many other types of luminescent materials in terms of the involvement of a host lattice and multiple optical centers, i.e., trivalent lanthanide ions with manyfolds of accessible long-lived energy states, in individual nanoparticles. The mutual interactions between these optical centers, i.e., sequential energy transfers, make them operate as an integrated unit and co-determine the luminescence kinetics and other optical properties of the individual nanoparticle. Thus, each nanoparticle consititutes a kinetic optical system. In this work, we explore UCNPs from the outset of being such kinetic optical systems and review their physical formation, the underlying photophysics, macroscopic statistical description, and their response to various optical stimuli in the spectral, polarization, intensity, temporal and frequency domains, and demonstrate ways that their optical output can be optimized by manipulating the excitation schemes. Our review highlights upconversion nanotechnology as an interdisciplinary field across chemistry, physics and biomedical engineering, with great future possibilities, flexibility and ramifications. We outline some of the potential directions of upconversion nanoparticle research.
- excitation manipulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Condensed Matter Physics