Novel Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots are provided. These Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots exhibit excellent temperature sensitivity in both organic solvents and water-based solutions. Methods of preparing the Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots are provided. The Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots may be prepared via a stepwise procedure using air-stable and inexpensive chemicals. The use of air-stable chemicals can significantly reduce the cost of synthesis, chemical storage, and the risk associated with handling flammable chemicals. Methods of temperature sensing using Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots are provided. The stepwise procedure provides the ability to tune the temperature-sensing properties to satisfy specific needs for temperature sensing applications. Water solubility may be achieved by passivating the Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots, allowing the Mn.sup.2+-doped quantum dots to probe the fluctuations of local temperature in biological environments.
 This invention was made with government support under Subaward #6915220 from the University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under its Department of Energy Prime Award #DE-AC02-05CH11231. The government has certain rights in this invention.