Optothermal Escape of Plasmonically Coupled Silver Nanoparticles from a Three-Dimensional Optical Trap

We demonstrate that optical trapping of multiple silver nanoparticles is strongly influenced by plasmonic coupling of the nanoparticles. Employing dark-field Rayleigh scattering imaging and spectroscopy on multiple silver nanoparticles optically trapped in three dimensions, we experimentally investigate the time-evolution of the coupled plasmon resonance and its influence on the trapping stability. With time the coupling strengthens, which is observed as a gradual red shift of the coupled plasmon scattering. When the coupled plasmon becomes resonant with the trapping laser wavelength, the trap is destabilized and nanoparticles are released from the trap. Modeling of the trapping potential and its comparison to the plasmonic heating efficiency at various nanoparticle separation distances suggests a thermal mechanism of the trap destabilization. Our findings provide insight into the specificity of three-dimensional optical manipulation of plasmonic nanostructures suitable for field enhancement, for example for surface-enhanced Raman scattering.