• fluorescence;
  • FRET;
  • sensors;
  • silver;
  • sol–gel


The efficiency of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) can be enhanced in the presence of a metal. Herein, we demonstrate the increased efficiency for a novel model sensor system where FRET is shown to occur between Rhodamine 6G in the bulk sol–gel matrix and Texas Red, which is held a fixed distance away by covalent attachment onto a silane spacer. Silver colloids are formed using light to initiate the reduction of a silver salt, which can be achieved at controlled locations within the film. Both the fluorescence intensity and lifetime maps and analysis indicate that an enhanced FRET efficiency has been achieved in the presence of silver nanoparticles. An increase in efficiency of 1.2–1.5 times is demonstrated depending on the spacer used. The novelty of our approach lies in the method of silver-nanoparticle formation, which allows for the accurate positioning of the silver nanoparticles and hence selective fluorescence enhancement within a biocompatible host material. Our work gives a practical demonstration of metal-enhanced FRET and demonstrates the ability of such systems to be developed for molecular-recognition applications that could find use in lab-on-a-chip technologies.