Shortwave infrared radiation (SWIR) is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum from approximately 900 nm to 2500 nm. Recent advances in imaging systems have expanded the application of SWIR emitters from traditional fields in materials science to biomedical imaging, and the new detectors in SWIR opened an opportunity of deep tissue imaging. Achieving deep photon penetration while maintaining high resolution is one of the main objectives and challenges in bioimaging used for the investigation of diverse processes in living organisms. The application of SWIR emitters in biological settings is, however, hampered by low quantum efficiency. So far, photoluminescent properties in the SWIR region have not been improved by extending concepts that have been developed for the visible (400-650 nm) and near-infrared (NIR, 700-900 nm) wavelengths, which indicates that the governing behavior is fundamentally different in the SWIR. The focus of this minireview is to examine the mechanisms behind the low efficiency of SWIR emitters as well as to highlight the progress in their design for biological applications. Several common mechanisms will be considered in this review: (a) the effect of the energy gap between the excited and ground state on the quantum efficiency, (b) the coupling of the excited electronic states in SWIR emitters to vibrational states in the surrounding matrix, and (c) the role of environment in quenching the excited states. General strategies to improve the quantum yields for a diverse type of SWIR emitters will be also presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1054
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 28 2017


  • Optical Window
  • SWIR
  • UCNP
  • exNIR
  • imaging
  • nanoparticles
  • quantum dots


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