Plasmon ruler with angstrom length resolution.
We demonstrate a plasmon nanoruler using a coupled film nanoparticle (film-NP) format that is well-suited for investigating the sensitivity extremes of plasmonic coupling. Because it is relatively straightforward to functionalize bulk surface plasmon supporting films, such as gold, we are able to precisely control plasmonic gap dimensions by creating ultrathin molecular spacer layers on the gold films, on top of which we immobilize plasmon resonant nanoparticles (NPs). Each immobilized NP becomes coupled to the underlying film and functions as a plasmon nanoruler, exhibiting a distance-dependent resonance red shift in its peak plasmon wavelength as it approaches the film. Due to the uniformity of response from the film-NPs to separation distance, we are able to use extinction and scattering measurements from ensembles of film-NPs to characterize the coupling effect over a series of very short separation distances-ranging from 5 to 20 Å-and combine these measurements with similar data from larger separation distances extending out to 27 nm. We find that the film-NP plasmon nanoruler is extremely sensitive at very short film-NP separation distances, yielding spectral shifts as large as 5 nm for every 1 Å change in separation distance. The film-NP coupling at extremely small spacings is so uniform and reliable that we are able to usefully probe gap dimensions where the classical Drude model of the conducting electrons in the metals is no longer descriptive; for gap sizes smaller than a few nanometers, either quantum or semiclassical models of the carrier response must be employed to predict the observed wavelength shifts. We find that, despite the limitations, large field enhancements and extreme sensitivity persist down to even the smallest gap sizes.
Hill, RT; Mock, JJ; Hucknall, A; Wolter, SD; Jokerst, NM; Smith, DR; Chilkoti, A
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