Zinc oxide nanocrystals (ZnO-NCs) doped with transition metal elements or rare earth elements can be probed for magnetic resonance imaging to be used as a molecular imaging technique for accurate diagnosis of various diseases. Herein, we use Mn as a candidate of transition metal elements and Gd as a presenter of rare earth elements. We report an easy and fast coprecipitation method exploiting oleic acid to synthesize spherical-shaped, small-sized doped ZnO-NCs. We show the improved colloidal stability of oleate-stabilized doped ZnO-NCs compared to the doped ZnO-NCs synthesized by conventional sol–gel synthesis method, i.e., without a stabilizing agent, especially for the Mn dopant. We also analyze their structural, morphological, optical, and magnetic properties. We are able to characterize the persistence of the crystalline properties (wurtzite structure) of ZnO in the doped structure and exclude the formation of undesired oxides by doping elements. Importantly, we determine the room-temperature ferromagnetism of the doped ZnO-NCs. This oleate-stabilized coprecipitation method can be subjected as a standard procedure to synthesize doped and also co-doped ZnO-NCs with any transition metal elements or rare earth elements. In the future, oleate-stabilized Gd/Mn-doped ZnO-NCs can be exploited as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents and possibly increase the signal intensity on T1-weighted images or reduce the signal intensity on T2-weighted images.
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