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Hotspots tamed by BEAST
Date:1/19/2011

of the light is enhanced by up to 14 orders of magnitude. First observed more than 30 years ago, such hotspots have been linked to the impact of surface roughness on plasmons (electronic surface waves) and other localized electromagnetic modes. However, during the past three decades, little has been learned about the origins of these hotspots.

"Amazingly, despite thousands of papers on this problem and various theories, we are the first to experimentally determine the nature of the electromagnetic field inside of such a nano-sized hotspots," says Hu Cang, lead author on the Nature paper and a member of Zhang's research group. "The 15 nanometer hotspot we measured is about the size of a protein molecule. We believe there are hotspots that may even be smaller than a molecule."

Because the size of these metallic hotspots is far smaller than the wavelength of incident light, a new technique was needed to map the electromagnetic field within a hotspot. The Berkeley researchers developed the BEAST method to capitalize on the fact that individual fluorescent dye molecules can be localized with single nanometer accuracy. The fluorescence intensity of individual molecules adsorbed on the surface provides a direct measure of the electromagnetic field inside a single hotspot. BEAST utilizes the Brownian motion of single dye molecules in a solution to make the dyes scan the inside of single hotspot stochastically, one molecule at a time.

"The exponential shape we found for the electromagnetic field within a hotspot is direct evidence for the existence of a localized electromagnetic field, as opposed to the more common form of Gaussian distribution," Cang says. "There are several competing mechanisms proposed for hotspots and we are now working to further examine these fundamental mechanisms."

BEAST starts with the submerging of a sample in a solution of freely diffusing fluorescent dye. Since the diffusion of the dye is much faster
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Contact: Xiang Zhang
xiang@berkeley.edu
510-225-8559
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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