Controllable Tuning Plasmonic Coupling with Nanoscale Oxidation

The nanoparticle on mirror (NPoM) construct is ideal for the strong coupling of localized plasmons because of its simple fabrication and the nanometer-scale gaps it offers. Both of these are much harder to control in nanoparticle dimers. Even so, realizing controllable gap sizes in a NPoM remains difficult and continuous tunability is limited. Here, we use reactive metals as the mirror so that the spacing layer of resulting metal oxide can be easily and controllably created with specific thicknesses resulting in continuous tuning of the plasmonic coupling. Using Al as a case study, we contrast different approaches for oxidation including electrochemical oxidation, thermal annealing, oxygen plasma treatments, and photo-oxidation by laser irradiation. The thickness of the oxidation layer is calibrated with depth-mode X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS). These all consistently show that increasing the thickness of the oxidation layer blue-shifts the plasmonic resonance peak while the transverse mode remains constant, which is well matched by simulations. Our approach provides a facile and reproducible method for scalable, local and controllable fabrication of NPoMs with tailored plasmonic coupling, suited for many applications of sensing, photochemistry, photoemission, and photovoltaics.