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Plasmonic Colloidal Nanoantennas for Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy


Plasmonic nanoantennas that a support localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) are capable of confining visible light to subwavelength dimensions due to strong electromagnetic field enhancement at the probe tip. Nanoantenna enable optical methods such as tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS), a technique that uses scanning probe microscopy tips to provide chemical information with nanoscale spatial resolution and single-molecule sensitivities. The LSPR supported by the probe tip is extremely sensitive to the nanoscale morphology of the nanoantenna. Control of nanoscale morphology is notoriously difficult to achieve, resulting in TERS probes with poor reproducibility. In my thesis, I demonstrate high-performance, predictable, and broadband nanospectroscopy probes that are fabricated by self-assembly. Shaped metal nanoparticles are organized into dense layers and deposited onto scanning probe tips. When coupled to a metal substrate, these probes support a strong optical resonance in the gap between the substrate and the probe, producing dramatic field enhancements. I show through experiment and electromagnetic modeling that close-packed but electrically isolated nanoparticles are electromagnetically coupled. Hybridized LSPRs supported by self-assembled nanoparticles with a broadband optical response, giving colloidal nanoantenna a high tolerance for geometric variation resulting from fabrication. I find that coupled nanoparticles act as a waveguide, transferring energy from many neighboring nanoparticles towards the active TERS apex. I also use surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to characterize the effects of nanoparticle polydispersity and gap height on the Raman enhancement. These colloidal probes have consistently achieved dramatic Raman enhancements in the range of 108–109 with sub-50 nm spatial resolution. Furthermore, in contrast to other nanospectroscopy probes, these colloidal probes can be fabricated in a scalable fashion with a batch-to-batch reproducibility of ~80%. This body of work serves as an important demonstration that bottom-up engineering can be used for batch fabricatation of high-performance and high-reliability devices using inexpensive equipment and materials.

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