Effects of biomolecular linkers and interstitial nanocrystals on plasmon coupling in nanoparticle dimers
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Plasmon coupling is known to cause distance dependent red-shifts of the characteristic plasmon resonance and localize strong electric fields to the gap between individual nanoparticles. These effects form the basis of nanoscale plasmonic sensors designed by creating specic structures of coupled nanoparticles. The simplest of these structures, a nanoparticle dimer, can easily be assembled through molecular self-assembly, resulting in a structure called a plasmon ruler. These plasmon rulers are crucial tools for the measurement of nanoscale distances, but the impact of the molecular linker on the plasmonic response of the coupled system remains insufficiently understood. In this dissertation, plasmons rulers composed of 40 nm gold nanoparticles are utilized to systematically investigate the potential effects of one molecular linker, DNA, on the strength of the plasmon coupling at a variety of interparticle separations. The strength of the plasmon coupling is determined based on the shifting of the plasmon resonance, which, at separations below 2.7 nm, is significantly blue-shifted when compared to expected values from electromagnetic simulations and experiments without DNA linkers. This deviation indicates a reduced charge accumulation on the nanoparticles in the gap region and is ascribed to DNA-mediated charge transfer. Enhancements to the charge transfer capabilities of the DNA were also investigated, through the deposition of interstitial palladium nanocrystals on the DNA linkers. The deposition of these nanocrystals results in a variety of structural changes to the plasmon rulers, associated with blue- and red-shifts of the plasmon resonance relative to electromagnetic simulations without gap material and experimental spectra of structures without molecular or metallic linkers. The relative blue-shift of the resonance results from a variety of scenarios, including short interparticle separations bridged by DNA or palladium nanocrystals, the build-up of palladium nanocrystals within the gap, or the incorporation of discrete palladium nanoparticles in the DNA linkers. The underlying mechanisms of the observed spectral shifts are analyzed. The red-shifted resonances resulted from a significant build-up of palladium nanocrystals in the gap, effectively linking the gold nanoparticles and forming a hybrid nanorod-like structure.