Gold nanodisc arrays as near infrared metal-enhanced fluorescence platforms with tuneable enhancement factors†
Metal enhanced fluorescence (MEF) is a physical effect through which the near-field interaction of fluorophores with metallic nanoparticles can lead to large fluorescence enhancement. MEF can be exploited in many fluorescence-based biomedical applications, with potentially significant improvement in detection sensitivity and contrast enhancement. Offering lower autofluorescence and minimal photoinduced damage, the development of effective and multifunctional MEF platforms in the near-infrared (NIR) region, is particularly desirable. In this work, the enhancement of NIR fluorescence caused by interaction with regular arrays of cylindrical gold (Au) nanoparticles (nanodiscs), fabricated through nanosphere lithography, is reported. Significant MEF of up to 235 times is obtained, with tuneable enhancement factors. The effect of array structure on fluorescence enhancement is investigated by semi-quantitatively de-convoluting excitation enhancement from emission enhancement, and modelling the local electric field enhancement. By considering arrays of Au nanodiscs with the same extinction maximum, it is shown that the excitation enhancement, due to increased electric field, is not significantly different for the particle sizes and separation distances considered. Rather, it is seen that the emission from the fluorophore is strongly enhanced, and is dependent on the topography, in particular particle size. The results show that the structural characteristics of Au nanodisc arrays can be manipulated to tune their enhancement factor, and hence their sensitivity.