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Scientific Reports






DOI: 10.1038/srep18894


Energy transfer upconversion (ETU) is known to be the most efficient frequency upconversion mechanism. Surface plasmon can further enhance the upconversion process, opening doors to many applications. However, ETU is a complex process involving competing transitions between multiple energy levels and it has been difficult to precisely determine the enhancement mechanisms. In this paper, we report a systematic study on the dynamics of the ETU process in NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ nanoparticles deposited on plasmonic nanograting structure. From the transient near-infrared photoluminescence under various excitation power densities, we observed faster energy transfer rates under stronger excitation conditions until it reached saturation where the highest internal upconversion efficiency was achieved. The experimental data were analyzed using the complete set of rate equations. The internal upconversion efficiency was found to be 56% and 36%, respectively, with and without the plasmonic nanograting. We also analyzed the transient green emission and found that it is determined by the infrared transition rate. To our knowledge, this is the first report of experimentally measured internal upconversion efficiency in plasmon enhanced upconversion material. Our work decouples the internal upconversion efficiency from the overall upconverted luminescence efficiency, allowing more targeted engineering for efficiency improvement.