Quantum Plasmon Resonances Controlled by Molecular Tunnel Junctions

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Science  28 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6178, pp. 1496-1499
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248797

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Controlling Quantum Plasmonics

Electron tunneling across cavities could potentially induce a quantum mechanical plasmon mode that would be important in nano-electronics, catalysis, nonlinear optics, or single-molecule sensing, but has been expected to occur only at length scales beyond the reach of current state-of-the-art technology. Using a system of plasmonic dimers comprising silver nanocubes bridged by a molecular self-assembled monolayer, Tan et al. (p. 1496; see the Perspective by Nordlander) observed quantum plasmonic tunneling between the resonators and were able to tune the frequency of this tunneling plasmon resonance via selection of the molecular tunnel junctions. Moreover, the effects were observed at length scales that are technologically accessible.


Quantum tunneling between two plasmonic resonators links nonlinear quantum optics with terahertz nanoelectronics. We describe the direct observation of and control over quantum plasmon resonances at length scales in the range 0.4 to 1.3 nanometers across molecular tunnel junctions made of two plasmonic resonators bridged by self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). The tunnel barrier width and height are controlled by the properties of the molecules. Using electron energy-loss spectroscopy, we directly observe a plasmon mode, the tunneling charge transfer plasmon, whose frequency (ranging from 140 to 245 terahertz) is dependent on the molecules bridging the gaps.

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