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Concept: Plasmon


The staining of neurons with silver began in the 1800s, but until now the great resolving power of the laser scanning confocal microscope has not been utilized to capture the in-focus and three-dimensional cytoarchitecture of metal-impregnated cells. Here, we demonstrate how spectral confocal microscopy, typically reserved for fluorescent imaging, can be used to visualize metal-labeled tissues. This imaging does not involve the reflectance of metal particles, but rather the excitation of silver (or gold) nanoparticles and their putative surface plasmon resonance. To induce such resonance, silver or gold particles were excited with visible-wavelength laser lines (561 or 640 nm), and the maximal emission signal was collected at a shorter wavelength (i.e., higher energy state). Because the surface plasmon resonances of noble metal nanoparticles offer a superior optical signal and do not photobleach, our novel protocol holds enormous promise of a rebirth and further development of silver- and gold-based cell labeling protocols.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Optics, Microscope, Gold, Surface plasmon resonance, Microscopy, Plasmon, Extraordinary optical transmission


We report an electrophoretic deposition method for the fabrication of gold nanoparticle (GNP) thin films as sensitive surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) substrates. In this method, GNP sol, synthesized by a seed-mediated growth approach, and indium tin oxide (ITO) glass substrates were utilized as an electrophoretic solution and electrodes, respectively. From the scanning electron microscopy analysis, we found that the density of GNPs deposited on ITO glass substrates increases with prolonged electrophoresis time. The films possess high mechanical adhesion strength and exhibit strong localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) effect by showing high SERS sensitivity to detect 1 x 10-7 M rhodamine 6 G in methanol solution. Finally, the relationship between Raman signal amplification capability and GNP deposition density has been further investigated. The results of our experiment indicate that the high-density GNP film shows relatively higher signal amplification capability due to the strong LSPR effect in narrow gap regions between the neighboring particles on the film.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Gold, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon


In this work, we focused on the label-free detection of simple protein binding using near-infrared light-responsive plasmonic nanoshell arrays with a controlled interparticle distance. The nanoshell arrays were fabricated by a combination of colloidal self-assembly and subsequent isotropic helium plasma etching under atmospheric pressure. The diameter, interparticle distance, and shape of nanoshells can be tuned with nanometric accuracy by changing the experimental conditions. The Au, Ag, and Cu nanoshell arrays, having a 240-nm diameter (inner, 200-nm polystyrene (PS) core; outer, 20-nm metal shell) and an 80-nm gap distance, exhibited a well-defined localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) peak at the near-infrared region. PS@Au nanoshell arrays showed a 55-nm red shift of the maximum LSPR wavelength of 885 nm after being exposed to a solution of bovine serum albumin (BSA) proteins for 18 h. On the other hand, in the case of Cu nanoshell arrays before/after incubation to the BSA solution, we found a 30-nm peak shifting. We could evaluate the difference in LSPR sensing performance by changing the metal materials.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Serum albumin, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Extraordinary optical transmission, Surface plasmon, Plasma oscillation, Waves in plasmas


With growing concerns about health issues worldwide, elegant sensors with high sensitivity and specificity for virus/antigens (Ag) detection are urgent to be developed. Homogeneous immunoassays (HIA) are an important technique with the advantages of small sample volumes requirement and pretreatment-free process. HIA are becoming more favorable for the medical diagnosis and disease surveillance than heterogeneous immunoassays. An important subset of HIA relies on the effect of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) via a donor-acceptor (D-A) platform, e.g., quantum dots (QDs) donor based FRET system. Being an excellent plasmonic material, silver triangular nanoplates (STNPs) have unique advantages in displaying surface plasmon resonance in the visible to near infrared spectral region, which make them a better acceptor for pairing with QDs in a FRET-based sensing system. However, the reported STNPs generally exhibited broad size distributions, which would greatly restrict their application as HIA acceptor for high detection sensitivity and specificity purpose. In this work, uniform STNPs and red-emitting QDs are firstly applied to construct FRET nanoplatform in the advanced HIA and further be exploited for analyzing virus Ag. The uniform STNPs/QDs nanoplatform based medical sensor provides a straightforward and highly sensitive method for Ag analysis in homogeneous form.

Concepts: Sensitivity and specificity, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Förster resonance energy transfer


We illustrate the important trade-off between far-field scattering effects, which have the potential to provide increased optical path length over broad bands, and parasitic absorption due to the excitation of localized surface plasmon resonances in metal nanoparticle arrays. Via detailed comparison of photocurrent enhancements given by Au, Ag and Al nanostructures on thin-film GaAs devices we reveal that parasitic losses can be mitigated through a careful choice of scattering medium. Absorption at the plasmon resonance in Au and Ag structures occurs in the visible spectrum, impairing device performance. In contrast, exploiting Al nanoparticle arrays results in a blue shift of the resonance, enabling the first demonstration of truly broadband plasmon enhanced photocurrent and a 22% integrated efficiency enhancement.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Nanotechnology, Gold, Solar cell, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Plasma oscillation, Waves in plasmas


The highest possible resolution for printed colour images is determined by the diffraction limit of visible light. To achieve this limit, individual colour elements (or pixels) with a pitch of 250 nm are required, translating into printed images at a resolution of ∼100,000 dots per inch (d.p.i.). However, methods for dispensing multiple colourants or fabricating structural colour through plasmonic structures have insufficient resolution and limited scalability. Here, we present a non-colourant method that achieves bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Colour information is encoded in the dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, so that tuning their plasmon resonance determines the colours of the individual pixels. Our colour-mapping strategy produces images with both sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations, is amenable to large-volume colour printing via nanoimprint lithography, and could be useful in making microimages for security, steganography, nanoscale optical filters and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Color, Plasmon, Printing, Lithography


The optical properties of metallic nanoparticles are highly sensitive to interparticle distance, giving rise to dramatic but frequently irreversible color changes. By electrochemical modification of individual nanoparticles and nanoparticle pairs, we induced equally dramatic, yet reversible, changes in their optical properties. We achieved plasmon tuning by oxidation-reduction chemistry of Ag-AgCl shells on the surfaces of both individual and strongly coupled Au nanoparticle pairs, resulting in extreme but reversible changes in scattering line shape. We demonstrated reversible formation of the charge transfer plasmon mode by switching between capacitive and conductive electronic coupling mechanisms. Dynamic single-particle spectroelectrochemistry also gave an insight into the reaction kinetics and evolution of the charge transfer plasmon mode in an electrochemically tunable structure. Our study represents a highly useful approach to the precise tuning of the morphology of narrow interparticle gaps and will be of value for controlling and activating a range of properties such as extreme plasmon modulation, nanoscopic plasmon switching, and subnanometer tunable gap applications.

Concepts: Electric charge, Nanoparticle, Optics, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Gold, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon


Determining the structures of nanoparticles at atomic resolution is vital to understand their structure-property correlations. Large metal nanoparticles with core diameter beyond 2 nm have, to date, eluded characterization by single-crystal X-ray analysis. Here we report the chemical syntheses and structures of two giant thiolated Ag nanoparticles containing 136 and 374 Ag atoms (that is, up to 3 nm core diameter). As the largest thiolated metal nanoparticles crystallographically determined so far, these Ag nanoparticles enter the truly metallic regime with the emergence of surface plasmon resonance. As miniatures of fivefold twinned nanostructures, these structures demonstrate a subtle distortion within fivefold twinned nanostructures of face-centred cubic metals. The Ag nanoparticles reported in this work serve as excellent models to understand the detailed structure distortion within twinned metal nanostructures and also how silver nanoparticles can span from the molecular to the metallic regime.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Chemistry, Chemical element, Metal, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Heavy metal music, Plasma oscillation


Plasmonic lasers exploit strong electromagnetic field confinement at dimensions well below the diffraction limit. However, lasing from an electromagnetic hot spot supported by discrete, coupled metal nanoparticles (NPs) has not been explicitly demonstrated to date. We present a new design for a room-temperature nanolaser based on three-dimensional (3D) Au bowtie NPs supported by an organic gain material. The extreme field compression, and thus ultrasmall mode volume, within the bowtie gaps produced laser oscillations at the localized plasmon resonance gap mode of the 3D bowties. Transient absorption measurements confirmed ultrafast resonant energy transfer between photoexcited dye molecules and gap plasmons on the picosecond time scale. These plasmonic nanolasers are anticipated to be readily integrated into Si-based photonic devices, all-optical circuits, and nanoscale biosensors.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, Resonator, Wave, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Plasma oscillation, Waves in plasmas


Plasmonic nanostructures have played a significant role in the field of nanotechnology due to their unprecedented ability to concentrate light at the nanometre scale, which renders them precious for various sensing applications. The adsorption of plasmonic nanoparticles and nanostructures onto solid substrates in a controlled manner is a crucial process for the fabrication of nanoplasmonic devices, in which the nanoparticles amplify the electromagnetic fields for enhanced device performance. In this perspective article we summarize recent developments in the fabrication of flexible nanoplasmonic devices for sensing applications based on surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) shifts. We introduce different types of flexible substrates such as filter paper, free-standing nanofibres, elastomers, plastics, carbon nanotubes and graphene, for the fabrication of low-cost flexible nanoplasmonic devices. Various techniques are described that allow impregnation of such flexible substrates with plasmonic nanoparticles, including solution processes, physical vapour deposition and lithographic techniques. From the discussion in this Perspective, it is clear that highly sensitive and reproducible flexible plasmonic devices can currently be fabricated on a large scale at relatively low-cost, toward real-world applications in diagnostics and detection.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Nanoparticle, Nanotechnology, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Plasma oscillation, Waves in plasmas