Tailoring the photoluminescence of atomically precise nanoclusters
Due to their atomically precise structures and intriguing chemical/physical properties, metal nanoclusters are an emerging class of modular nanomaterials. Photo-luminescence (PL) is one of their most fascinating properties, due to the plethora of promising PL-based applications, such as chemical sensing, bio-imaging, cell labeling, phototherapy, drug delivery, and so on. However, the PL of most current nanoclusters is still unsatisfactory—the PL quantum yield (QY) is relatively low (generally lower than 20%), the emission lifetimes are generally in the nanosecond range, and the emitted color is always red (emission wavelengths of above 630 nm). To address these shortcomings, several strategies have been adopted, and are reviewed herein: capped-ligand engineering, metallic kernel alloying, aggregation-induced emission, self-assembly of nanocluster building blocks into cluster-based networks, and adjustments on external environment factors. We further review promising applications of these fluorescent nanoclusters, with particular focus on their potential to impact the fields of chemical sensing, bio-imaging, and bio-labeling. Finally, scope for improvements and future perspectives of these novel nanomaterials are highlighted as well. Our intended audience is the broader scientific community interested in the fluorescence of metal nanoclusters, and our review hopefully opens up new horizons for these scientists to manipulate PL properties of nanoclusters. This review is based on publications available up to December 2018.