Surfaces of metallic films and metallic nanoparticles can strongly confine electromagnetic field through its coupling to propagating or localized surface plasmons. This interaction is associated with large enhancement of the field intensity and local optical density of states which provides means to increase excitation rate, raise quantum yield, and control far field angular distribution of fluorescence light emitted by organic dyes and quantum dots. Such emitters are commonly used as labels in assays for detection of chemical and biological species. Their interaction with surface plasmons allows amplifying fluorescence signal (brightness) that accompanies molecular binding events by several orders of magnitude. In conjunction with interfacial architectures for the specific capture of target analyte on a metallic surface, plasmon-enhanced fluorescence (PEF) that is also referred to as metal-enhanced fluorescence (MEF) represents an attractive method for shortening detection times and increasing sensitivity of various fluorescence-based analytical technologies. This review provides an introduction to fundamentals of PEF, illustrates current developments in design of metallic nanostructures for efficient fluorescence signal amplification that utilizes propagating and localized surface plasmons, and summarizes current implementations to biosensors for detection of trace amounts of biomarkers, toxins, and pathogens that are relevant to medical diagnostics and food control.
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