Cubic versus hexagonal – phase, size and morphology effects on the photoluminescence quantum yield of NaGdF4:Er3+/Yb3+ upconverting nanoparticles†
Upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) are well-known for their capacity to convert near-infrared light into UV/visible light, benefitting various applications where light triggering is required. At the nanoscale, loss of luminescence intensity is observed and thus, a decrease in photoluminescence quantum yield (PLQY), usually ascribed to surface quenching. We evaluate this by measuring the PLQY of NaGdF4:Er3+,Yb3+ UCNPs as a function of size (ca. 15 to 100 nm) and shape (spheres, cubes, hexagons). Our results show that the PLQY of α-phase NaGdF4 Er3+,Yb3+ surpasses that of β-NaGdF4 for sizes below 20 nm, an observation related to distortion of the crystal lattice when the UCNPs become smaller. The present study also underlines that particle shape must not be neglected as a relevant parameter for PLQY. In fact, based on a mathematical nucleus/hull volumetric model, shape was found to be particularly relevant in the 20 to 60 nm size range of the investigated UCNPs.