Starch Capped Atomically Thin CuS Nanocrystals for Efficient Photothermal Therapy

Zhiyong Zheng, Ping Yu, Huili Cao, Mengyu Cheng, Thomas Zhou, Li E. Lee, Jens Ulstrup, Jingdong Zhang, Christian Engelbrekt*, Lixin Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Photothermal therapy requires efficient plasmonic nanomaterials with small size, good water dispersibility, and biocompatibility. This work reports a one-pot, 2-min synthesis strategy for ultrathin CuS nanocrystals (NCs) with precisely tunable size and localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), where a single-starch-layer coating leads to a high LSPR absorption at the near-IR wavelength 980 nm. The CuS NC diameter increases from 4.7 (1 nm height along [101]) to 28.6 nm (4.9 nm height along [001]) accompanied by LSPR redshift from 978 to 1200 nm, as the precursor ratio decreases from 1 to 0.125. Photothermal temperature increases by 38.6 °C in 50 mg L-1 CuS NC solution under laser illumination (980 nm, 1.44 W cm-2). Notably, 98.4% of human prostate cancer PC-3/Luc+ cells are killed by as little as 5 mg L-1 starch-coated CuS NCs with 3-min laser treatment, whereas CuS NCs without starch cause insignificant cell death. LSPR modeling discloses that the starch layer enhances the photothermal effect by significantly increasing the free carrier density and blue-shifting the LSPR toward 980 nm. This study not only presents a new type of photothermally highly efficient ultrathin CuS NCs, but also offers in-depth LSPR modeling investigations useful for other photothermal nanomaterial designs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2103461
Issue number47
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Copper sulfides
  • Finite element method
  • Localized surface plasmon resonances
  • Nanocrystals
  • Photothermal effects
  • Photothermal therapies
  • Starch


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