Engineering Application-Specific Plasmonic Nanoparticles: Quantitative Measurements and Precise Characterization
Hafner, Jason H.
Doctor of Philosophy
Nobel metal nanoparticles that exhibit plasmon resonances in the visible and near infrared have been of great interest in recent years. Strong light-matter interactions on the nanoscale have a range of interesting properties that may be useful in applications in medicine, sensing, solar energy harvesting and information processing. Depending on the application, particle materials and geometries can be optimized for performance. A novel method of quantifying individual nanoparticle scattering cross-sections by comparing experiments with analytical theory for gold nanospheres is proposed and utilized. Results show that elongated particles scatter very brightly for their volumes. This brightness is due to a strong longitudinal plasmon resonance that occurs in the near infrared – where gold has minimal loss. Elongated particles, such as nanorods, are therefore, ideal for applications that rely on particles scattering brightly in small spaces, such as biological imaging. Next, gold nanobelts are discussed and characterized. These novel structures are akin to nanowires, but with a small, rectangular cross-sectional geometry. Gold nanobelts are shown to exhibit a strong transverse resonance that has never been reported previously in nanowires. The transverse resonance is shown to shift linearly with crosssectional aspect ratio. Other interesting products from the nanobelt synthesis, tapered and split nanobelts, are discussed. Gold nanobelts also support longitudinal propagating plasmons, and have the smallest cross-sectional area of any elongated plasmonic structure that has been reported to do so. By analyzing the output tip signal of propagating plasmons for nanobelts of different lengths, the decay length is measured. Finite Difference Time Domain simulations and polarization measurements show the fundamental, azimuthally symmetric mode is very strong for thin structures such as these, but decays much more quickly than a higher-order mode, which begins to dominate at longer lengths. The cross-sectional mode area is given, illustrating the high confinement of plasmons in these structures. A figure of merit that takes into account both confinement and propagation length is calculated to be 1300 for the higher-order mode, the highest reported for nanoscale plasmonic waveguides. The high figure of merit makes gold nanobelts excellent candidates for studying strong coupling between plasmonic structures and objects that exhibit quantum behavior.