Experiments on tiny gold prisms help to explain the unusual electrodynamics of nanostructures

Feb 12, 2014
Experiments on tiny gold prisms help to explain the unusual electrodynamics of nanostructures
Transmission electron microscopy image showing a very narrow connective bridge (around six atoms wide) between two gold nanoprisms, forming a ‘bowtie’. Credit: A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering

Nanoplasmonics—the study of light manipulation on the nanometer scale—has contributed to the production of novel devices for chemical and biological sensing, signal processing and solar energy. However, components at such small scales experience strange effects that classical electrodynamics cannot explain. A particular challenge for theorists lies in isolating so-called 'nonlocal' effects, whereby the optical properties of a particle are not constant but depend on nearby electromagnetic fields.

Now, Joel Yang and colleagues at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, with co-workers in the United Kingdom and China, have used both simulations and experiments to investigate the nonlocal effects displayed by electrons in metal nanostructures.

The team developed three-dimensional simulations of electron-energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) spectra. EELS is a powerful laboratory technique that can provide information on nanostructure geometries, but also gives rise to nonlocal effects. An EELS device is used to fire energetic electrons at a metal nanostructure and then to measure how much energy the electrons lose when they excite plasmon resonances in the sample. Previously, it had been difficult for experimentalists to correctly interpret EELS spectra because the nonlocal effects are not considered in current theory—the relevant solutions of Maxwell's field equations.

Yang and co-workers present the first full three-dimensional solution of Maxwell's equations for a sample being probed by an EELS source. "Our theoretical configuration mimics the experimental setup and the equations were, for the first time, implemented and solved using commercial software," says Yang.

The researchers applied their theory to triangular gold nanoprisms and concluded that significant nonlocal effects occur when the side length of the prisms is smaller than 10–50 nanometers, causing a spatial dispersion of . They then examined real EELS results for gold 'bowtie' nanostructures—each gold bowtie was created by joining two nanoprisms at their peaks using gold bridges as narrow as 1.6 nanometers (see image).

The real bowties exhibited a similar spatial field dispersion to that anticipated for single prisms, but with greatly reduced high-frequency conduction at the narrow connective bridges. The researchers speculate that the field reduction is caused by two factors not included in their model—quantum confinement in the narrow bridges as well as electron scattering from grain boundaries. These factors help to explain the interplay between nonlocality and geometry.

"Existing models tend to treat metals as having homogeneous ," says Yang. "Our results suggest that at the nanoscale we need to take account of quantum confinement and granularity."

Explore further: Physicists quantify temperature changes in metal nanowires

More information: Wiener, A., Duan, H., Bosman, M., Horsfield, A. P., Pendry, J. B. et al. "Electron-energy loss study of nonlocal effects in connected plasmonic nanoprisms." ACS Nano 7, 6287–6296 (2013). dx.doi.org/10.1021/nn402323t

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physicists quantify temperature changes in metal nanowires

Jan 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Using the interaction between light and charge fluctuations in metal nanostuctures called plasmons, a University of Arkansas physicist and his collaborators have demonstrated the capability of measuring temperature ...

Optics: A step in time saves two

Jul 17, 2013

A technique that reduces the time to simulate the operation of active optical devices aids the design of nanoscale lasers.

Characterizing solar cells with nanoscale precision

Dec 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) have demonstrated a new low energy electron beam technique and used it to probe the nanoscale electronic properties ...

Recommended for you

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

Apr 16, 2014

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...