Upconverting/magnetic: Gd2O3:(Er3+,Yb3+,Zn2+) nanoparticles for biological applications: effect of Zn2+ doping†
Upconverting Gd2O3 nanoparticles (NPs) doped 1% Er3+ and 18% Yb3+ permits one to perform optical imaging. Because of the presence of Gd3+ they are useful in MRI. The main challenge is to enhance the NPs upconversion efficiency. As a result of co-doping the NPs with Zn2+ ions, achieved using microwave-induced solution combustion synthesis, we obtained optimal upconversion quantum yields (UQYs). The breakdown of the local crystal field symmetry around the rare earth ions, maximal in the presence of 5% of zinc, may be responsible for the highest observed UQY. The upconversion of IR light results in emission of visible red light mainly at 660 nm and at 550 nm. Optimized red photoluminescence of the samples observed in an organic environment was examined as a function of the laser power density to explain the mechanism of the upconversion emission. Paramagnetic properties of the NPs were determined by superconducting quantum interference device measurements. The non-functionalized nanoparticles incubated with HeLa cells were endocytosed and imaged by confocal laser scanning microscopy. We investigated their localization inside HeLa cells for various incubation times and NPs concentrations. PrestoBlue toxicity assay was performed to test the NPs bio-efficacy.