Optical imaging of cancer cells using near infrared (NIR) light is currently an active area of research, as this spectral region directly corresponds to the therapeutic window of biological tissues. Upconversion nanocrystals are photostable alternatives to conventional fluorophores. In our work, we have prepared upconversion nanocrystals of NaYF4:Yb/Er and encapsulated them in silica to form core-shell structures. The as-prepared core-shell nanostructures have been characterized for their structure, morphology, and optical properties using X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy coupled with elemental mapping, and upconversion luminescence spectroscopy, respectively. The cytotoxicity examined using cell viability assay indicated a low level of toxicity of these core-shell nanostructures. Finally, these core-shell nanostructures have been utilized as photostable probes for NIR light enabled optical imaging of human breast cancer cells. This work paves the way for the development of advanced photostable, biocompatible, low-toxic core-shell nanostructures for potential optical imaging of biological cells and tissues.
- Upconverting nanophosphors