Since I learned about the periodic table, I have been curious as to what each element could be used for. And as the years went by, some of their applications became known; but others, like the lanthanide group, remained a mystery. That’s why I was intrigued when I saw the presentation on “Lanthanide-doped Materials as Probes for Hyperspectral Imaging: A Powerful Combination to Assess Nano-Bio Interactions” by Dr. Eva Hemmer from the University of Ottawa on the SB07.07 General Session I.
The optical properties of lanthanides are interesting and range from the ultra-violet (UV) region to the near infra-red (NIR) region. For example, when a lanthanide is irradiated with NIR light they can emit NIR light of their own (downshifting), or emit the higher energy UV-Vis light (upconversion). This excitation and emission in the NIR region makes lanthanides prominent candidates for biomedical applications such as imaging of single crystal and micro molecules with high resolution.
To implement these ideas, Dr. Hemmer’s group decided to use lanthanides as dopants in alkali metals and rare earth elements so as to mitigate the effects of their interactions. This resulted in the microwave assisted synthesis of upconverting nanoparticles (UCNP) that could serve as luminescent probes for imaging at the nano- and micro- scale of biological components.
Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) is an approach to obtain 3D images that also characterizes the sample based on their spectral emission. Combining HSI with the UCNP, the researchers performed this technique to get a high precision emission profile of their sample of interest. And, using biopolymers to encapsulate the UCNP they were able to insert them into an organism without damaging, contaminating or causing illness.
If you are interested in learning more about the applications that lanthanides can have, click here to view the full SB07.07 General Session I.