Such highly coveted technical capabilities as the observation of single catalytic processes in nanoreactors, or the optical detection of low concentrations of biochemical agents and gases are an important step closer to fruition. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with researchers at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, report the first experimental demonstration of antenna-enhanced gas sensing at the single particle level. By placing a palladium nanoparticle on the focusing tip of a gold nanoantenna, they were able to clearly detect changes in the palladium's optical properties upon exposure to hydrogen.
"We have demonstrated resonant antenna-enhanced single-particle hydrogen sensing in the visible region and presented a fabrication approach to the positioning of a single palladium nanoparticle in the nanofocus of a gold nanoantenna," says Paul Alivisatos, Berkeley Lab's director and the leader of this research. "Our concept provides a general blueprint for amplifying plasmonic sensing signals at the single-particle level and should pave the road for the optical observation of chemical reactions and catalytic activities in nanoreactors, and for local biosensing."
Alivisatos, who is also the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of California, Berkeley, is the corresponding author of a paper in the journal Nature Materials describing this research. The paper is titled "Nanoantenna-enhanced gas sensing in a single tailored nanofocus." Co-authoring the paper with Alivisatos were Laura Na Liu, Ming Tang, Mario Hentschel and Harald Giessen.
"The strongly enhanced gold-particle plasmon near-fields can sense the change in the dielectric function of the proximal palladium nanoparticle as it absorbs or releases hydrogen. Light scattered by the system is collected by a dark-field microscope with attached spectrometer and the LSPR change is read out in real time."
Alivisatos, Liu and their co-authors found that the antenna enhancement effect could be controlled by changing the distance between the palladium nanoparticle and the gold antenna, and by changing the shape of the antenna.
"By amplifying sensing signals at the single-particle level, we eliminate the statistical and average characteristics inherent to ensemble measurements," Liu says. "Moreover, our antenna-enhanced plasmonic sensing technique comprises a noninvasive scheme that is biocompatible and can be used in aqueous environments, making it applicable to a variety of physical and biochemical materials."
For example, by replacing the palladium nanoparticle with other nanocatalysts, such as ruthenium, platinum, or magnesium, Liu says their antenna-enhanced plasmonic sensing scheme can be used to monitor the presence of numerous other important gases in addition to hydrogen, including carbon dioxide and the nitrous oxides. This technique also offers a promising plasmonic sensing alternative to the fluorescent detection of catalysis, which depends upon the challenging task of finding appropriate fluorophores. Antenna-enhanced plasmonic sensing also holds potential for the observation of single chemical or biological events.
"We believe our antenna-enhanced sensing technique can serve as a bridge between plasmonics and biochemistry," Liu says. "Plasmonic sensing offers a unique tool for optically probing biochemical processes that are optically inactive in nature. In addition, since plasmonic nanostructures made from gold or silver do not bleach or blink, they allow for continuous observation, an essential capability for in-situ monitoring of biochemical behavior."
This research was supported by the DOE Office of Science and the German ministry of research.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 12 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.
Contact: Lynn Yarris firstname.lastname@example.org 510-486-5375 DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory