Plasmon enhancement of luminescence upconversion
Frequency conversion has always been an important topic in optics. Nonlinear optics has traditionally focused on frequency conversion based on nonlinear susceptibility but with the recent development of upconversion nanomaterials, luminescence upconversion has begun to receive renewed attention. While upconversion nanomaterials open doors to a wide range of new opportunities, they remain too inefficient for most applications. Incorporating plasmonic nanostructures provides a promising pathway to highly efficient upconversion. Naturally, a plethora of theoretical and experimental studies have been published in recent years, reporting enhancements up to several hundred. It is however difficult to make meaningful comparisons since the plasmonic fields are highly sensitive to the local geometry and excitation condition. Also, many luminescence upconversion processes involve multiple steps via different physical mechanisms and the overall output is often determined by a delicate interplay among them. This review is aimed at offering a comprehensive framework for plasmon enhanced luminescence upconversion. We first present quantum electrodynamics descriptions for all the processes involved in luminescence upconversion, which include absorption, emission, energy transfer and nonradiative transitions. We then present a bird's eye view of published works on plasmon enhanced upconversion, followed by more detailed discussion on comparable classes of nanostructures, the effects of spacer layers and local heating, and the dynamics of the plasmon enhanced upconversion process. Plasmon enhanced upconversion is a challenging and exciting field from the fundamental scientific perspective and also from technological standpoints. It offers an excellent system to study how optical processes are affected by the local photonic environment. This type of research is particularly timely as the plasmonics is placing heavier emphasis on nonlinearity. At the same time, efficient upconversion could make a significant impact on many applications including solar energy conversion and biomedical imaging. The marriage of luminescent materials research with nanophotonics currently being initiated with plasmon enhanced upconversion research explores a new frontier in photonics that could potentially spawn many exciting new fields.