Plasmonic Nanostructures for Solar and Biological Application
Halas, Naomi J.
Doctor of Philosophy
The electromagnetic absorption properties of plasmonic nanostructures were utilized to develop mesoscopic sites for highly efficient photothermal generation steam, SERS biosensing, and light-triggered cellular delivery uptake. Plasmonic nanostructures embedded in common thermal solutions produces vapor without the requirement of heating the fluid volume. When particles are dispersed in water at ambient temperature, energy is directed primarily to vaporization of water into steam, with a much smaller fraction resulting in heating of the fluid. Solar illuminated aqueous nanoparticle solution can drive water-ethanol distillation, yielding fractions significantly richer in ethanol content than simple thermal distillation and also produced saturated steam destroying Geobacillus stearothermophilus bacteria in a compact solar powered autoclave. Subwavelength biosensing sites were developed using the plasmonic properties of gold nanoshells to investigate the properties of aptamer (DNA) target complexes. Nanoshells are tunable core-shell nanoparticles whose resonant absorption and scattering properties are dependent on core/shell thickness ratio. Nanoshells were used to develop a label free detection method using SERS to monitor conformational change induced by aptamer target binding. The conformational changes to the aptamers induced by target binding were probed by monitoring the aptamer SERS spectra reproducibility. Furthermore, nanoshells can serve as a nonviral light-controlled delivery vector for the precise temporal and spatial control of molecular delivery in vitro. The drug delivery concept using plasmonic vectors was shown using a monolayer of ds-DNA attached to the nanoshell surface and the small molecular “parcel” intercalated inside ds-DNA loops. DAPI, a fluorescent dye, was used as the molecular parcel to visualize the release process in living cells. Upon laser illumination at the absorption resonance the nanoshell converts photon energy into heat producing a local temperature gradient that induces DNA dehybridization, releasing the intercalated molecules.