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Quantification of Efficient Plasmonic Hot-Electron Injection in Gold Nanoparticle–TiO2 Films

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journal contribution
posted on 29.08.2017, 00:00 by Daniel C. Ratchford, Adam D. Dunkelberger, Igor Vurgaftman, Jeffrey C. Owrutsky, Pehr E. Pehrsson
Excitation of localized surface plasmons in metal nanostructures generates hot electrons that can be transferred to an adjacent semiconductor, greatly enhancing the potential light-harvesting capabilities of photovoltaic and photocatalytic devices. Typically, the external quantum efficiency of these hot-electron devices is too low for practical applications (<1%), and the physics underlying this low yield remains unclear. Here, we use transient absorption spectroscopy to quantify the efficiency of the initial electron transfer in model systems composed of gold nanoparticles (NPs) fully embedded in TiO2 or Al2O3 films. In independent experiments, we measure free carrier absorption and electron–phonon decay in the model systems and determine that the electron-injection efficiency from the Au NPs to the TiO2 ranges from about 25% to 45%. While much higher than some previous estimates, the measured injection efficiency is within an upper-bound estimate based on a simple approximation for the Au hot-electron energy distribution. These results have important implications for understanding the achievable injection efficiencies of hot-electron plasmonic devices and show that the injection efficiency can be high for Au NPs fully embedded within a semiconductor with dimensions less than the Au electron mean free path.