WG4 - Assays, Sensors and Imaging

New assay formats and applications will be developed. Intrinsically referenced signal detection principles will be investigated

Major objectives of WG4

Diagnostic assays

Upconversion nanomaterials (UCNMs) are well suited as reporters for point-of-care tests because the upconversion luminescence can be measured free from background even in more complex sample materials such as whole blood. The turnaround time of the assay from sampling to readout is shortened because many sample preparation and purification steps are avoided. Both, heterogeneous and homogeneous immunoassays will be developed based on optimised UCNMs. In addition, UCNMs will be applied in multianalyte bioarray applications.

Chemo- and biosensors

UCNMs will be used to develop immunoassays for monitoring bacterial toxins and mycotoxins. The UCNMs will be utilised for the design of nanoprobes for the background-free and ultrasensitive detection of small molecule chemical analytes such as pH, pO2, glucose, Ca2+ or other ions. Such probes will be designed by combining suitable molecule/ion sensitive fluorophores as energytransfer acceptors with UCNMs. Decay kinetics of different emission bands and different excitation wavelengths: rise times and decay times.

Encoding schemes for multiplexed analyte detection

The multiple narrow emission bands of UCNMs enable the multiplexed detection of diagnostically relevant analytes. This unique feature of UCNMs will be further exploited by combining the encoding schemes and spectral multiplexing with suspension or solid phase bio-array technologies.

Fluorescence imaging and microscopy

The UCNMs produced and characterised in WG 1 and WG 2 will be studied as reporters for both microscopic analysis of cells and in vivo imaging. UCNM conjugates will be used to identify and trace membrane-bound or intracellular molecules in living cells. Far-red luminescent UCNMs (e.g. NaYF4:Yb,Tm) will be selected to provide minimal scattering and high contrast. Time-gated measurement will be developed and exploited in particular for Forster Resonant Energy Transfer (FRET)- and sensor applications.

Single molecule applications

Single molecule FRET experiments have enabled to characterise the conformations, dynamics and interactions of labelled nucleic acids and proteins. Biomolecules will be labelled with UCNM as the FRET donor and a classical fluorophore as the acceptor. Based on the single molecule instrument developed in WG3, the dynamics of various protein/nucleic acid interactions will be investigated. Additional developments will exploit the signal multiplexing capabilities of UCNM.


Dr. María José Marín

School of Chemistry

University of East Anglia

Norwich Research Park

NR4 7TJ, Norwich, UK

Email: M.Marin-Altaba @ uea.ac.uk

Dr. Thomas Hirsch

Universität Regensburg

Institut für Analytische Chemie, Chemo- und Biosensorik

93040 Regensburg, Germany

Email: thomas.hirsch @ ur.de

The working group achievements :


  1. “Composite particles with magnetic properties, near-infrared excitation, and far-red emission for luminescence-based oxygen sensing” Elisabeth Scheucher, Stefan Wilhlem, Otto S. Wolfbeis, Thomas Hirsch and Torsten Mayr, Microsystems & nanoengineering, 2015, 1 – 4; DOI: 10.1038/micronano.2015.26.
  2. “Highly Sensitive Laser Scanning of Photon-Upconverting Nanoparticles on a Macroscopic Scale” Sedlmeier A, Hlavácek A, Birner L, Mickert MJ, Muhr V, Hirsch T, Corstjens PL, Tanke HJ, Soukka T and Gorris HH., Anal Chem., 2016, 88:1835-41; DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.5b04147.
  3. “Chemical Sensing and Imaging Based on Photon Upconverting Nano- and Microcrystals” S. Christ and M. Schäferling, Methods and Applications in Fluorescence, 2015, 034004.
  4. “Quenching of the Upconversion Luminescence of NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ and NaYF4:Yb3+,Tm3+ Nanophosphors by Water: The Role of the Sensitizer Yb3+ in Non-Radiative Relaxation” R. Arppe, I. Hyppänen, N. Perälä, R. Peltomaa, M. Kaiser, C. Würth, S. Christ, U. Resch-Genger, M. Schäferling and T. Soukka, Nanoscale, 2015, 7, 11746-11757.
  5. “Photon Upconversion Sensitized Nanoprobes for Sensing and Imaging of pH” R. Arppe, T. Näreoja, S. Nylund, L. Mattsson, S. Koho, J.M. Rosenholm, T. Soukka, M. Schäferling, Nanoscale, 2014, 6, 6837-6843.
  6. “Background-free Referenced Luminescent Sensing and Imaging of pH Using Upconverting Phosphors and Color Camera Read-out” R.J. Meier, J.M.B. Simbürger, T. Soukka, M. Schäferling, Analytical Chemistry, 2014, 86, 5535–5540.
  7. “Broadening temperature sensitivity range with core-shell YbEr@YbNd double ratiometric optical nanothermometer” L. Marciniak, K. Prorok, L. Francés-Soriano, J. Pérez-Prieto and A. Bednarkiewicz*, accepted in Nanoscale 2016.
  8. “Energy transfer in diiodoBodipy-grafted Q1 upconversion nanohybrids” Laura Francés-Soriano, Marta Liras, Agnieszka Kowalczyk, Artur Bednarkiewicz, Maria González-Béjar and Julia Pérez-Prieto, Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 204.
  9. “Upconversion nanoparticles with a strong acid-resistant capping” Ileana Recalde, Nestor Estebanez, Laura Francés-Soriano, Marta Liras, María González-Béjar and Julia Pérez-Prieto, Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 7588–7594.
  10. “Cucurbit[n]uril-capped upconversion nanoparticles as highly emissive scaffolds for energy acceptors” Laura Francés-Soriano, María González-Béjar and Julia Pérez-Prieto, Nanoscale, 2015, 7, 5140–5146.
  11. “Efficient cementing of CH3NH3PbBr3 nanoparticles to up-conversion nanoparticles visualized by confocal microscopy” Laura Francés-Soriano, Soranyel Gonzalez-Carrero, Enrique Navarro-Raga, Raquel E. Galian, María González-Béjar and Julia Pérez-Prieto, Adv. Funct. Mater., 2016, in press.
  12. “Neodymium-Based Stoichiometric Ultrasmall Nanoparticles for Multifunctional Deep-Tissue Photothermal Therapy" Blanca del Rosal, Alberto Pérez-Delgado, Elisa Carrasco, Dragana J. Jovanović, Miroslav D. Dramićanin, Goran Dražić, Ángeles Juarranz de la Fuente, Francisco Sanz-Rodriguez and Daniel Jaque, Advanced Optical Materials, DOI: 10.1002/adom.201500726 (2016).
  13. “In Vivo Deep Tissue Fluorescence and Magnetic Imaging Employing Hybrid Nanostructures" Ortgies, D. H., de la Cueva, L., del Rosal, B., Sanz-Rodríguez, F., Fernández, N., Iglesias-de la Cruz, M. C., Salas, G., Cabrera, D., Teran, F. J., Jaque, D. and Martín Rodríguez, E., ACS Appl. Mater. Inter., 8, 1406 (2016).
  14. "Unveiling in Vivo Subcutaneous Thermal Dynamics by Infrared Luminescent Nanothermometers" Erving Clayton Ximendes, Weslley Queiroz Santos, Uéslen Rocha, Upendra Kumar Kagola, Francisco Sanz-Rodríguez, Nuria Fernández, Artur da Silva Gouveia-Neto, David Bravo, Agustín Martín Domingo, Blanca del Rosal, Carlos D. S. Brites, Luís Dias Carlos, Daniel Jaque and Carlos Jacinto, Nanoletters, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b04611 (2016).
  15. "Self-monitored photothermal nanoparticles based on core–shell engineering" Erving C. Ximendes, Uéslen Rocha, Carlos Jacinto, Kagola Upendra Kumar, David Bravo, Fernando J. López, Emma Martín Rodríguez, José García-Solé and Daniel Jaque, Nanoscale, 8, 3057 (2016).
  16. "Assessing Single Upconverting Nanoparticle Luminescence by Optical Tweezers" P Rodríguez-Sevilla, H Rodríguez-Rodríguez, M Pedroni, A Speghini, M Bettinelli, J García Solé, D Jaque and P Haro-González, NanoLetters, 8, 5068-5074 (2015).
  17. “Multicolor upconversion luminescence of GdVO4:Ln3+/Yb3+ (Ln3+ = Ho3+, Er3+, Tm3+, Ho3+/Er3+/Tm3+) nanorods” Tamara V. Gavrilović, Dragana J. Jovanović, Krisjanis Smits and Miroslav D. Dramićanin, Dyes and Pigments, 126 (2016) 1-7.
  18. "Dual-excitation upconverting nanoparticle and quantum dot aptasensor for multiplexed food pathogen detection” Kurt, H., Yuce, M.*, Hussain, B. and Budak, H., Biosensor and Bioelectronics. 2016, 81; 280-286. doi:10.1016/j.bios.2016.03.005.
  19. “Upconversion nanomaterials for photodynamic therapy” M. J. Marín and D. A. Russell, Invited book chapter for the RSC book: "Near-infrared nanomaterials". Edited by Fan Zhang and Dongyuan Zhao (to be published in 2016).
  20. “Water dispersible upconverting nanoparticles: effects of surface modification on their luminescence and colloidal stability” Stefan Wilhelm, Martin Kaiser, Christian Würth, Josef Heiland, Carolina Carrillo-Carrion, Verena Muhr, Otto S Wolfbeis, Wolfgang J Parak, Ute Resch-Genger, Thomas Hirsch, 2015 Nanoscale, 7(4), 1403-1410.
  21. “A competitive Upconversion-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ULISA) for the rapid and sensitive detection of diclofenac” Antonín Hlaváček, Zdeněk Farka, Maria Hübner, Veronika Horňáková, Daniel Nemecek, Reinhard Niessner, Petr Skládal, Dietmar Knopp, and Hans H Gorris. 2016 Anal. Chem., Just Accepted Manuscript, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01083

Participation in dissemination meetings supported by COST or which acknowledged COST:

  • Oral presentation given by Tero Soukka: "Photon Upconverting Nanophosphors for Ultrasensitive Detection of Cardiac Troponin I" Sirkka N, Lyytikaeinen A, Savukoski T and Soukka T, University of Turku, Finland. Presentation given in Europtrode XIII, Graz, Austria, 20 - 23.3.2016.
  • Oral presentation given by Stefan Andersson-Engels: "Upconverting nanoparticles provides means for deep-tissue optical imaging and photoactivation” Andersson-Engels S, Liu H, Mousavi M, Lund University, Department of Physics, Lund, Sweden. Presentation given in Europtrode XIII, Graz, Austria, 20 - 23.3.2016.
  • “Widening European Participation – Young Academy of Sciences and private perspective”, Artur Bednarkiewicz, European Research Council Day – Academia Europea, Wroclaw
  • “Widening European Participation”, Artur Bednarkiewicz, joined meeting of ERC, COST, Young Academy of Europe, Brussels, BE
  • oral lecture "Luminescent nanoparticles for life sciences", A.Bednarkiewicz,  invited lecture at Young Academy of Europe and Academia Europea Annual Meeting 2015, Darmstadt


  • Satu Lahtinen, from Turku (FI) to Berlin (DE). Chromophore sensitizes for enhanced upconversion emission. 17.9.2015 - 9.10.2015. This STSM was related partially to WG4 but can be also linked to other WGs.
  • Laura Frances-Soriano, PhD in Julia Pérez-Prieto's group (Spain), made a research stay in Bednarkiewicz’s lab. As a consequence, they involved groups published a joint publication in Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 5037–5042.
  • Olivija Plohl, PhD student in Dr Darja Lisjak’s group (Slovenia), accomplished her STSM at BAM, Berlin, with Ute Resch-Genger, from 30. 11. until 14. 12. 2015: COST-STSM-CM1403-29927. Project: “Effect of the dissolution of fluoride UCNPs on their optical properties”. Manuscript currently in preparation.
  • Markus Buchner, PhD student in Dr Thomas Hirsch’s lab, spent two weeks (from 10th to 24th May 2015) in the group of Prof David A. Russell (working with Dr María J. Marín, University of East Anglia). “Project: Functionalised Upconverting Nanoparticles as Tools for Photodynamic Therapy of Cancer”. Manuscript currently in preparation.
  • Ueslen Rocha, PhD student in Dr Dani Jaque and Prof Jose García Sole (Spain), visited the group of Dr Luis Carlos (University of Aveiro) from the 20th October to the 20th December 2015.

Joint Projects

  • Upshell. Ended in 2015. Funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Thechnology and Innovation (Tekes). Project partners: Prof. Soukka and Dr. Terhi Riuttamäki (University of Turku, Finland).
  • Upsense. Ongoing project. Funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Thechnology and Innovation (Tekes). Project partners: Prof. Soukka and Dr. Terhi Riuttamäki (University of Turku, Finland)
  • Nanoparticle Hybrid Materials Using Plasmonic-Enhanced Upconversion FRET for Multiplexed Sensing and Optical Barcoding. M-ERA.Net 2015, granted in July 2015 for 36 months (DFG), project partners (*COST members):

  • Prof. Niko Hildebrandt* (NanoBioPhotonics, Institut d'Electronique Fondamentale, Université Paris-Sud, Projektkoordinator), project coordinator
  • Prof. Christina Graf* (Physikalische und Theoretische Chemie, Institut für Chemie und Biochemie, Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Dr. Ute Resch-Genger* (BAM 1.10 Biophotonics)
  • prof. Javier Garcia de Abajo (Institute of Photonic Sciences, Barcelona)


COST Action CM1403 (2014-2018)

Chair: dr Hans Gorris (University of Regensburg, Germany)

Vice-Chair: prof.Tero Soukka (University of Turku, Finland)

COST Science Officer: Dr. Lucia Forzi (Bruseels, Belgium)

STSMs Manager: dr hab. Artur Bednarkiewicz (PAS & WCB EIT+, Poland)


info @ ucnp.eu


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