A novel nanophotonic method for enhancing the two-photon fluorescence signal of a fluorophore is presented. It utilizes the second harmonic (SH) of the exciting light generated by noble metal nanospheres in whose near-field the dye molecules are placed, to further enhance the dye's fluorescence signal in addition to the usual metal-enhanced fluorescence phenomenon. This method enables demonstration, for the first time, of two-photon fluorescence enhancement inside a biological system, namely live cells. A multishell hydrogel nanoparticle containing a silver core, a protective citrate capping, which serves also as an excitation quenching inhibitor spacer, a pH indicator dye shell, and a polyacrylamide cladding are employed. Utilizing this technique, an enhancement of up to 20 times in the two-photon fluorescence of the indicator dye is observed. Although a significant portion of the enhanced fluorescence signal is due to one-photon processes accompanying the SH generation of the exciting light, this method preserves all the advantages of infrared-excited, two-photon microscopy: enhanced penetration depth, localized excitation, low photobleaching, low autofluorescence, and low cellular damage.
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