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Nanotechnology. 2013 Mar 8;24(9):095707. doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/24/9/095707. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

Subsurface synthesis and characterization of Ag nanoparticles embedded in MgO.

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Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PO Box 999, Richland, WA 99352, USA.


Metal nanoparticles exhibit a localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) which is very sensitive to the size and shape of the nanoparticle and the surrounding dielectric medium. The coupling between the electromagnetic radiation and the localized surface plasmon in metallic nanoparticles results in a sizable enhancement of the incident fields, making them possible candidates for plasmonic applications. In particular, partially exposed metallic nanoparticles distributed in a dielectric matrix can provide prime locations for LSPR spectroscopy and sensing. We report the synthesis and characterization of a plasmonic substrate consisting of Ag nanoparticles partially buried in MgO. Ag nanoparticles of different shapes and size distributions were synthesized below the surface of MgO by implanting 200 keV Ag(+) ions followed by annealing at 1000 °C for 10 and 30 h. A detailed optical and structural characterization was carried out to understand the evolution of the Ag nanoparticle and size distribution inside the MgO matrix. Micro x-ray diffraction (Micro-XRD) was employed to investigate the structural properties and estimate the crystallite size. The nanoparticles evolved from a spherical to a faceted morphology with annealing time, assuming an octahedral shape truncated at the (001) planes, as visualized from aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images. The nanoparticles embedded in MgO were shown to be pure metallic Ag using atom probe tomography (APT). The nanoparticles were partially exposed to the surface by employing plasma etch techniques to remove the overlaying MgO. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were employed to study the surface morphology and obtain a height distribution for the partially exposed nanoparticles.

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