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Non-invasive precise thermometers working at the nanoscale with high spatial resolution, where the conventional methods are ineffective, have emerged over the last couple of years as a very active field of research. This has been strongly stimulated by the numerous challenging requests arising from nanotechnology and biomedicine. This critical review offers a general overview of recent examples of luminescent and non-luminescent thermometers working at nanometric scale. Luminescent thermometers encompass organic dyes, QDs and Ln3+ions as thermal probes, as well as more complex thermometric systems formed by polymer and organic–inorganic hybrid matrices encapsulating these emitting centres. Non-luminescent thermometers comprise of scanning thermal microscopy, nanolithography thermometry, carbon nanotube thermometry and biomaterials thermometry. Emphasis has been put on ratiometric examples reporting spatial resolution lower than 1 micron, as, for instance, intracellular thermometers based on organic dyes, thermoresponsive polymers, mesoporous silica NPs, QDs, and Ln3+-based up-converting NPs and β-diketonate complexes. Finally, we discuss the challenges and opportunities in the development for highly sensitive ratiometric thermometers operating at the physiological temperature range with submicron spatial resolution.
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