The development, a result of international collaboration between Fudan University in China and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), has the potential to take bio-imaging resolution beyond what is currently possible with CT and PET imaging technology. The research is published in Nature Photonics.
Professor Dayong Jin, a senior author on the study and Director of the UTS Institute for Biomedical Materials & Devices (IBMD), said "this outcome is a great example that shows how we transform advances in photonics and material sciences into revolutionary biotechnologies at IBMD."
Contrast - Agents - Visualisation - Differentiation - Tissue
Optical contrast agents are used primarily to improve the visualisation and differentiation in tissue and blood vessels in both clinical and research settings.
To optimize the brightness of a contrast agent, and to efficiently illuminate single cells and biomolecules, the challenge lies in overcoming a limitation in physics, called "concentration quenching." This is caused by the cross relaxation of energy between emitters when they are too close to each other, so that having too many emitters leads to a quenching of the overall brightness.
Approach - Research - Concentration - Effect - Pure
"The new approach in this research was to unlock the concentration quenching effect by using the pure rare earth element ytterbium that only has a single excited state to avoid inter-system cross relaxation," explained by Professor Jin, "so that a network of over 5,000 pure ytterbium emitters can be tightly condensed within a space of 10 nm in diameter, a thousand times smaller than a cell."
At this emitter density all possible atomic doping sites are occupied by ytterbium within the crystal lattice structure, and once properly passivated (made unreactive), by a thin layer of biocompatible calcium fluoride, the material is free of concentration quenching.
Efficiency - Photonics - Conversion - Limit - %
"This enables the efficiency of photonics conversion to approach the theoretical limit of 100%. This not only benchmarks a new record in photonics and material sciences, but also opens...
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