The plasmonic phenomenon was discovered in nanostructures at the interfaces between a noble metal, such as gold or silver, and a dielectric, such as air or glass. Directing an electromagnetic field at such an interface generates electronic surface waves that roll through the conduction electrons on a metal, like ripples spreading across the surface of a pond that has been plunked with a stone. Just as the energy in an electromagnetic field is carried in a quantized particle-like unit called a photon, the energy in such an electronic surface wave is carried in a quantized particle-like unit called a plasmon. The key to plasmonic properties is when the oscillation frequency between the plasmons and the incident photons matches, a phenomenon known as localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR). Conventional scientific wisdom has held that LSPRs require a metal nanostructure , where the conduction electrons are not strongly attached to individual atoms or molecules. This has proved not to be the case as Prashant Jain, a member of the Alivisatos research group and one of the lead authors of the Nature Materials paper, explains.
"Our study represents a paradigm shift from metal nanoplasmonics as we've shown that, in principle, any nanostructure can exhibit LSPRs so long as the interface has an appreciable number of free charge carriers, either electrons or holes," Jain says. "By demonstrating LSPRs in doped quantum dots, we've extended the range of candidate materials for plasmonics to include semiconductors, and we've also merged the field of plasmonic nanostructures, which exhibit tunable photonic properties, with the field of quantum dots, which exhibit tunable electron
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DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory