Plasmon-enhanced fluorescence (PEF) is a simple and highly effective approach for improving the signal-to-noise ratio and sensitivity of various fluorescence-based bioanalytical techniques. Here, we show that the fluorescence enhancement efficacy of gold nanorods (AuNRs), which are widely employed for PEF, is highly dependent on their absolute dimensions (i.e., length and diameter). Notably, an increase in the dimensions (length × diameter) of the AuNRs from 46 × 14 to 120 × 38 nm2 while holding the aspect ratio constant leads to nearly 300% improvement in fluorescence enhancement efficiency. Further increase in the AuNR size leads to a decrease of the fluorescence enhancement efficiency. Through finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulation, we reveal that the size-dependent fluorescence enhancement efficiency of AuNR stems from the size-dependent electromagnetic field around the plasmonic nanostructures. AuNRs with optimal dimensions resulted in a nearly 120-fold enhancement in the ensemble fluorescence emission from molecular fluorophores bound to the surface. These plasmonic nanostructures with optimal dimensions also resulted in a nearly 30-fold improvement in the limit of detection of human interleukin-6 (IL-6) compared to AuNRs with smaller size, which are routinely employed in PEF.
- gold nanorod (AuNR)
- plasmon-enhanced fluorescence
- plasmonic patch
- protein microarray