Plasmonic tunnel junctions for single-molecule redox chemistry

02 Oct 2017

Nanoparticles attached just above a flat metallic surface can trap optical fields in the nanoscale gap. This enables local spectroscopy of a few molecules within each coupled plasmonic hotspot, with near thousand-fold enhancement of the incident fields. As a result of non-radiative relaxation pathways, the plasmons in such sub-nanometre cavities generate hot charge carriers, which can catalyse chemical reactions or induce redox processes in molecules located within the plasmonic hotspots. Here, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy allows us to track these hot-electron-induced chemical reduction processes in a series of different aromatic molecules. We demonstrate that by increasing the tunnelling barrier height and the dephasing strength, a transition from coherent to hopping electron transport occurs, enabling observation of redox processes in real time at the single-molecule level.