Sub-20 nm LiErF4-Based Upconversion Nanophosphors for Simultaneous Imaging and Photothermal Therapeutics

A. Ra Hong, Ji Young Byun, Kwangyeol Lee, Ho Seong Jang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports red-emitting LiErF4:Tm-based upconversion nanophosphors (UCNPs) with small size and high brightness for simultaneous upconversion luminescence (UCL) imaging and photothermal therapeutics. Strong red UCL is realized from LiErF4-based UCNPs by doping Tm3+ into LiErF4 and forming multishells on the LiErF4:Tm core. The ultrasmall LiErF4:Tm UCNPs are facilely synthesized by using rare-earth-oleate precursors and a mixed solvent of oleic acid and 1-octadecene. The size of the ultrasmall LiErF4:Tm(0.3%) UCNPs is finely tuned from 2.8 to 10.4 nm, and LiErF4:Tm(0.3%)/LiGdF4 core/shell (C/S) UCNPs show small sizes ranging from 8.6 to 13.2 nm. Notably, 11.4 nm-sized C/S UCNPs show bright red light. Furthermore, LiErF4:Tm-based core/triple-shell (C/T-S) UCNPs are synthesized, and they show dramatic enhancement of red UCL (∼4242-fold enhancement compared with the core under 980 nm excitation and ∼89-fold and ∼14-fold enhancement compared with the C/S UCNPs under 800 and 1532 nm excitation, respectively). Besides UCL enhancement, Nd3+ ions doped in the LiErF4:Tm-based C/T-S UCNPs generate heat under 800 nm irradiation, allowing the C/T-S UCNPs to be applied as photothermal therapeutic agents. The ultrasmall (<20 nm) and bright red-emitting LiErF4:Tm-based C/T-S UCNPs have the potential for simultaneous imaging and photothermal therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8662-8671
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Nano Materials
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sept 25

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (NRF-2018R1A2B5A03023239), the Materials Innovation Project (NRF-2020M3H4A3081791) funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea, a grant from the Bio and Medical Technology Development Programs (NRF-2016M3A9B6902060) through the Ministry of Science, ICT, and the Future Planning and Future Key Technology Program (project no. 2E30710) by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.


  • LiErF
  • core/triple-shell
  • photothermal property
  • red upconversion
  • ultrasmall nanophosphors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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