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Upconverting nanocomposites dispersed in urea-containing acrylics
Inglefield, David Lott, Jr.
Merritt, Travis R.
Magill, Brenden A.
Long, Timothy E.
Khodaparast, Giti A.
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Lanthanide-doped upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) have the ability to convert low energy photons into high energy photons, making this material appealing for a variety of scientific pursuits, from solar energy conversion to bioimaging. A combination of polymers and nanocomposites increases the utility of these upconverting nanoparticles allowing nanoparticles to be added to any device compatible with polymer coatings. Here, trifluoroacetate salt decomposition enables Er/Yb doped NaYF4 upconverting nanoparticle synthesis. The subsequent deposition of a silica nanoshell yields polar silica-coated upconverting nanoparticles, enabling composite formation with polar urea-containing methacrylic polymers. Hydrogen bonding between urea groups in the polymer and the silica-coated nanoparticles allowed for dispersion of the upconverting nanoparticles to form upconverting composite films. These films exhibit desirable upconversion comparable to the nanoparticles dispersed in methanol. Urea-containing polymers are promising candidates for matrices in nanocomposites formed with polar silica nanoparticles due to favorable polymer-nanoparticle interactions. This architecture is superior to urea-methacrylate homopolymers, since the central low glass transition temperature block will provide critical ductility to the film, thus rendering the film to be durable for optical applications.