Opto-mechanical coupling effects on metallic nanostructures
Surface plasmon is the quantized collective oscillation of the free electron gas in a metallic material. By coupling surface plasmons with photons in different nanostructures, researchers have found surface plasmon polaritons (SPP) and localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), which are widely adopted in biosensing, single molecule sensing and detection via surface enhanced raman scattering (SERS), photothermal ablation treatments for cancer, optical tagging and detection, strain sensing, metamaterials, and other applications. The overall objective of this dissertation is to investigate both how mechanics impacts the optical properties, and also how optics impacts the mechanical properties of metal nanostructures reversely. Mechanically engineering individual nanostructures(forward coupling) offers the freedom to alter the optical properties with more flexibility and tunability. It is shown that elastic strain can be applied to gold nanowires to reduce the intrinsic losses for subwavelength optical signal processing, leading to an increase of up to 70% in the surface plasmon polariton propagation lengths at resonance frequencies. Apart from strain engineering, defects are another important aspect of mechanically engineering nanoscale materials, whose impacts on the optical properties of metal nanostructures remain unresolved. An atomic electrodynamic model has been derived to demonstrate that those effects are crucial for ultrasmall nanoparticles with characteristic sizes around 2 nm, and can be safely ignored for those larger than about 5 nm due to the important contribution of nanoscale surface effects. Another key focus of this research project (reverse coupling) is to investigate the currently unknown effects that an external optical field has on the mechanical properties of metal nanostructures. Since each atom in the nanostructure acts as a dipole due to induced electron motions, this optical excitation introduces additional dipolar forces that add to the standard mechanical atomic interactions, which could alter the mechanical properties of the nanostructures. Furthermore, it is shown that when linking mechanics with LSPR, because the metal is dispersive, the mechanical behavior or the strength of the nanostructure should be dependent on the frequency of the electromagnetic excitation. To study this phenomenon, a simpler case with an electrostatic field excitation is considered first, and conclusions are reached on how static fields can be used to tune the elasticity of metallic nanostructures with different sizes and axial orientations and surfaces. Then building upon those understandings, studies were carried out in determining the effects of an optical field, specifically at LSPR frequency, on the mechanical properties of metallic nanostructures. It is found that the initial relaxation strain induced by the static field or optical field is the key factor leading to the variations in the stiffness of the metallic nanostructures that are excited by optical fields at the LSPR frequencies.