The geometry and dimension of a gold nanorod (GNR) are optimally designed to enhance the fluorescence intensity of a lanthanide-doped upconversion nanocrystal placed in close proximity to the GNR. A systematic study of the electromagnetic interaction between the upconversion emitter of three energy levels and the GNR shows that the enhancement effect arising from localized electric field-induced absorption can be balanced by the negative effect of electronic transition from an intermediate state to the ground state of the emitter. The dependence of fluorescence enhancement on the emitter-GNR separation is investigated, and the results demonstrate a maximum enhancement factor of 120 folds and 160 folds at emission wavelengths 650 and 540 nm, respectively. This is achieved at the emitter-GNR separation ranging from 5 to 15 nm, depending on the initial quantum efficiency of the emitter. The modified upconversion luminescence behavior by adjusting the aspect ratio of the GNR and the relative position of the emitter indicates the dominate role of excitation process in the total fluorescence enhancement. These findings are of great importance for rationally designing composite nanostructures of metal nanoparticles and upconversion nanocrystals with maximized plasmonic enhancement for bioimaging and sensing applications.
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