Lanthanide ion-doped upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) that can convert low-energy infrared photons into high-energy visible and ultraviolet photons, are becoming highly sought-after for advanced biomedical and biophotonics applications. Their unique luminescent properties enable UCNPs to be applied for diagnosis, including biolabeling, biosensing, bioimaging, and multiple imaging modality, as well as therapeutic treatments including photothermal and photodynamic therapy, bio-reductive chemotherapy and drug delivery. For the employment of the inorganic nanomaterials into biological environments, it is critical to bridge the gap in between nanoparticles and biomolecules via surface modifications and subsequent functionalisation. This work reviews the various ways to surface modify and functionalise UCNPs so as to impart different functional molecular groups to the UCNPs surfaces for a broad range of applications in biomedical areas. We discussed commonly used base functionalities, including carboxyl, amino and thiol moieties that are typically imparted to UCNP surfaces so as to provide further functional capacity.
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