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Manipulating energy migration within single lanthanide activator for switchable upconversion emissions towards bidirectional photoactivation

Reliance on low tissue penetrating UV or visible light limits clinical applicability of phototherapy, necessitating use of deep tissue penetrating near-infrared (NIR) to visible light transducers like upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs). While typical UCNPs produce multiple simultaneous emissions for unidirectional control of biological processes, programmable control requires orthogonal non-overlapping light emissions. These can be obtained through doping nanocrystals with multiple activator ions. However, this requires tedious synthesis and produces complicated multi-shell nanoparticles with a lack of control over emission profiles due to activator crosstalk. Herein, we explore cross-relaxation (CR), a non-radiative recombination pathway typically perceived as deleterious, to manipulate energy migration within the same lanthanide activator ion (Er3+) towards orthogonal red and green emissions, simply by adjusting excitation wavelength from 980 to 808 nm. These UCNPs allow programmable activation of two synergistic light-gated ion channels VChR1 and Jaws in the same cell to manipulate membrane polarization, demonstrated here for cardiac pacing.

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4416 (2019)

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