Fluorescence Manipulation by Gold Nanoparticles: From Complete Quenching to Extensive Enhancement

Kyung A. Kang, Jianting Wang, Jacek B. Jasinski, Samuel Achilefu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


Background: When a fluorophore is placed in the vicinity of a metal nanoparticle possessing a strong plasmon field, its fluorescence emission may change extensively. Our study is to better understand this phenomenon and predict the extent of quenching and/or enhancement of fluorescence, to beneficially utilize it in molecular sensing/imaging.Results: Plasmon field intensities on/around gold nanoparticles (GNPs) with various diameters were theoretically computed with respect to the distance from the GNP surface. The field intensity decreased rapidly with the distance from the surface and the rate of decrease was greater for the particle with a smaller diameter. Using the plasmon field strength obtained, the level of fluorescence alternation by the field was theoretically estimated. For experimental studies, 10 nm GNPs were coated with polymer layer(s) of known thicknesses. Cypate, a near infrared fluorophore, was placed on the outermost layer of the polymer coated GNPs, artificially separated from the GNP at known distances, and its fluorescence levels were observed. The fluorescence of Cypate on the particle surface was quenched almost completely and, at approximately 5 nm from the surface, it was enhanced ~17 times. The level decreased thereafter. Theoretically computed fluorescence levels of the Cypate placed at various distances from a 10 nm GNP were compared with the experimental data. The trend of the resulting fluorescence was similar. The experimental results, however, showed greater enhancement than the theoretical estimates, in general. The distance from the GNP surface that showed the maximum enhancement in the experiment was greater than the one theoretically predicted, probably due to the difference in the two systems.Conclusions: Factors affecting the fluorescence of a fluorophore placed near a GNP are the GNP size, coating material on GNP, wavelengths of the incident light and emitted light and intrinsic quantum yield of the fluorophore. Experimentally, we were able to quench and enhance the fluorescence of Cypate, by changing the distance between the fluorophore and GNP. This ability of artificially controlling fluorescence can be beneficially used in developing contrast agents for highly sensitive and specific optical sensing and imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalJournal of Nanobiotechnology
StatePublished - May 10 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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