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J Phys D Appl Phys. 2003 Jul 1;36:R240-R249.

Radiative decay engineering: the role of photonic mode density in biotechnology.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Centre for Fluorescence Spectroscopy, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 725 West Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Fluorescence detection is a central technology in biological research and biotechnology. A vast array of fluorescent probes are available with diverse spectral properties. These properties were 'engineered' into fluorophores by modification of the chemical structures. Essentially, all present uses of fluorescence rely on the radiation of energy into optically transparent media, the free space which surrounds the fluorophores. In this paper, we summarize an opportunity for novel fluorescence technology based on modification of the photonic mode density around the fluorophore and thus control of its spectral properties. This modification can be accomplished by proximity of fluorophores to metallic particles of gold, silver and possibly others. By engineering the size and shape of the metal particles, and the location of the fluorophores relative to the surfaces, fluorophores can be quenched, display increases in quantum yield, and changes in lifetime. Fluorophore-metal surface combinations can even display directional rather than isotropic emission. We describe recent experimental results and suggest potential biomedical applications of fluorophore-metal particle interactions.

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