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Optically Driven Gold Nanoparticles Seed Surface Bubble Nucleation in Plasmonic Suspension

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posted on 03.05.2021, 16:40 authored by Qiushi Zhang, Ruiyang Li, Eungkyu Lee, Tengfei Luo
Photothermal surface bubbles play important roles in applications like microfluidics and biosensing, but their formation on transparent substrates immersed in a plasmonic nanoparticle (NP) suspension has an unknown origin. Here, we reveal NPs deposited on the transparent substrate by optical forces are responsible for the nucleation of such photothermal surface bubbles. We show the surface bubble formation is always preceded by the optically driven NPs moving toward and deposited to the surface. Interestingly, such optically driven motion can happen both along and against the photon stream. The laser power density thresholds to form a surface bubble drastically differ depending on if the surface is forward- or backward-facing the light propagation direction. We attributed this to different optical power densities needed to enable optical pulling and pushing of NPs in the suspension, as optical pulling requires higher light intensity to excite supercavitation around NPs to enable proper optical configuration.