Gap plasmon, plasmon resonance, gold nanoparticles, nanophotonics, nano optics


Surface plasmon resonances of metal nanostructures have been studied intensely in recent years. The strong plasmon-mediated electric field enhancement and field confinement well beyond the diffraction limit has been demonstrated to improve the performance of optical devices including ultrasensitive sensors, light emitters, and optical absorbers. A plasmon resonance mode of particular recent interest is the gap plasmon resonance that occurs on closely spaced metallic structures. In contrast to plasmon resonances supported by isolated metal nanostructures, coupled nanostructures provide additional spectral and spatial control over the plasmon resonance response. For example, the resonance frequencies of metal nanoparticle dimers depend strongly on the gap size between the nanoparticles. Gap plasmons can produce local electric field enhancement factors that are several orders of magnitude stronger and more confined than surface plasmon resonances of isolated plasmonic nanospheres. The reliance of gap plasmons on few-nanometer separation between nanostructures makes it difficult to prepare gap-plasmon supporting structures with predictable resonance frequency and field enhancement. A structure that avoids this challenge is the film-coupled nanoparticle (NP). Similar to nanoparticle dimers, a nanoparticle on a supporting metallic film (or NP-on-a-mirror) can offer a strong coupling between the particle and its local environment, in this case the supporting film instead of adjacent nanoparticles, enabling strongly confined gap-plasmon modes. The NP-on-a-mirror geometry has been shown to produce reproducible gap plasmon resonances in a chemically and thermally robust, easy to fabricate structure. In this Thesis, we first present a scheme for controlling the gap plasmon resonance frequency of single gold nanoparticles using aluminum oxide coated metal films. We demonstrate experimentally and numerically that the gap-plasmon resonance of single gold nanoparticles can be tuned throughout the visible range by controlling the aluminum oxide thickness via anodization. In a separate study of Au NP on Al2O3 coated gold films it is shown that the oxide coating improves the stability of the structure under intense laser irradiation. An combined experimental and numerical analysis of the spectral response of Au NP on rough Au films shows that a film roughness of a few nanometer can affect the gap plasmon resonance in the absence of an oxide spacer layer. A photoluminescence study of single gold nanoparticles on an Al2O3 coated gold film shows that the gap-plasmon resonance of this type of plasmonic structure can increase gold photoluminescence by more than four orders of magnitude. Related numerical simulations reveal that the local photoluminescence enhancement of a gold nanoparticle on an Al2O3 coated gold film can be as high as one million near the particle-film junction. Finally, a new plasmonic sensing element was proposed based on our findings in the previous chapters. This proposed hole-in-one structure offers several attractive features including an easily optically accessible gap plasmon mode, while maintaining a relatively simple fabrication method. Taken together, the research presented in this Thesis demonstrates how the resonance frequency, field enhancement, mode polarization, structural stability, and structure reliability can be controlled at the nanoscale. The knowledge gained in the course of this work could lead to further development of nanophotonic devices that utilize extremely confined optical fields and precisely controlled resonance frequencies.


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Graduation Date





Kik, Pieter G.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Optics and Photonics


Optics and Photonics

Degree Program

Optics and Photonics








Release Date

December 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Optics and Photonics; Optics and Photonics -- Dissertations, Academic