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Acc Chem Res. 2008 Aug;41(8):1049-57. doi: 10.1021/ar800074d. Epub 2008 Jul 8.

A new generation of sensors based on extraordinary optical transmission.

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  • 1Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3055, Victoria, B.C. V8W 3P6, Canada.


[Reaction: see text]. Plasmonic-based chemical sensing technologies play a key role in chemical, biochemical, and biomedical research, but basic research in this area is still attracting interest. Researchers would like to develop new types of plasmonic nanostructures that can improve the analytical figures of merit, such as detection limits, sensitivity, selectivity, and dynamic range, relative to the commercial systems. They are also tackling issues such as cost, reproducibility, and multiplexing with the goal of providing the best plasmonic-based platform for chemical analysis. In this Account, we will describe recent advances in the optical and spectroscopic properties of nanohole arrays in thin gold films and their applications for chemical sensing. These nanostructures support the unusual phenomenon of "extraordinary optical transmission" (EOT), that is, they are more transparent at certain wavelengths than expected by the classical aperture theory. The EOT is a consequence of surface plasmon (SP) excitations; hence, the resonance should respond to the adsorption of organic molecules. We explored this effect and implemented the integration of the arrays of nanoholes as sensing elements in a microfluidic architecture. We then demonstrated how these devices could be applied in biochemical affinity tests. Arrays of nanoholes offer a small sensing footprint and operate at normal transmission mode, which make them more suitable for miniaturization. This new approach for SPR sensing is more compatible with the lab-on-chip concept and offers the possibility of high-throughput analysis from a single sensing chip. We explored the field localization properties of EOT for surface-enhanced spectroscopy. We could control the enhancement factors for SERS and SEFS by adjusting the geometry of the arrays. The shape of the individual nanoholes offers another handle to tune the enhancement factor for surface-enhanced spectroscopy and SPR sensitivity. Apexes in shaped nanostructures function as optical antennas, focusing the light at extremely small regions at the tips. We observed additional surface enhancement by tuning the apexes' properties. The extra enhancement in these cases originated only from the small number of molecules in the apex regions. The arrays of nanoholes are an exciting new substrate for chemical sensing and enhanced spectroscopy. This class of nanomaterials has the potential to provide a viable alternative to the commercial SPR-based sensors. Further research could exploit this platform to develop nanostructures that support high field localization for single-molecule spectroscopy.

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