Plasmonic nano-protractor based on polarization spectro-tomography

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The detection of molecular and nanoparticle labels with nanometre spatial resolution is of great interest for biomolecular and material sciences1,2. Nanosensors capable of monitoring bending and rotations of biomolecules3,4 or characterizing soft materials assembled using DNA as scaffolds5,6 are highly desirable. A powerful idea incorporated in optical spectroscopic rulers is to transduce changes in spatial arrangement into spectral differences. With few exceptions7, current spectroscopic rulers such as fluorescent resonant energy transfer8 and the recently demonstrated plasmonic ruler9 provide merely one-dimensional information about the distance between labelling entities. Here, we propose and demonstrate a three-dimensional spectroscopic nanosensor, called a ‘plasmonic protractor’, based on a plasmonic nanostructure formed between a plasmonic sphere and a nanolabel attached to it. A polarization-resolved scattering technique enables the reconstruction of the nanolabel's location and orientation with deep subdiffraction spatial resolution. This plasmonic far-field, in situ spatial arrangement sensor greatly expands the capability of existing spectroscopic rulers.

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Figure 1: Conceptual schematics of PST of the MNP/ESO hybrid.
Figure 2: Optical resonances and experimental assembly of an MNP/ESO hybrid.
Figure 3: Experimental application of PST to the nanosphere/nanorod hybrid.
Figure 4: The Fano axis defines the physical orientation of the rod.


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The work was supported in part by the US Army Research Laboratory and the US Army Research Office (W911NF-11-1-0447), the National Science Foundation (NSF; DMR-0747822), Office of Naval Research (N00014-08-1-0745), Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-10-1-0022), the Welch Foundation (F-1662) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The authors acknowledge technical assistance from S. Stranahan, K. Willets and J. Bao.

Author information

C.W. and G.S. proposed the concept. F.S. led the experimental effort. Y.W., P.P. and A.S. assisted in experiments. C.W. and A.B.K. conducted theoretical calculations. G.S. and X.L. supervised the project. All authors discussed and contributed to the paper.

Correspondence to Xiaoqin Li or Gennady Shvets.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Shafiei, F., Wu, C., Wu, Y. et al. Plasmonic nano-protractor based on polarization spectro-tomography. Nature Photon 7, 367–372 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.68

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