Sculpting the plasmonic responses of nanoparticles by directed electron beam irradiation
Spatial confinement of matter in functional nanostructures has propelled these systems to the forefront of nanoscience, both as a playground for exotic physics and quantum phenomena and in multiple applications including plasmonics, optoelectronics, and sensing. In parallel, the emergence of monochromated electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) has enabled exploration of local nanoplasmonic functionalities within single nanoparticles and the collective response of nanoparticle assemblies, providing deep insight into the associated mechanisms. However, modern synthesis processes for plasmonic nanostructures are often limited in the types of accessible geometry and materials, and even then, limited to spatial precisions on the order of tens of nm, precluding the direct exploration of critical aspects of the structure-property relationships. Here, we use the atomic-sized probe of the scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) to perform precise sculpting and design of nanoparticle configurations. Furthermore, using low-loss (EELS), we provide dynamic analyses of evolution of the plasmonic response during the sculpting process. We show that within self-assembled systems of nanoparticles, individual nanoparticles can be selectively removed, reshaped, or arbitrarily patterned with nanometer-level resolution, effectively modifying the plasmonic response in both space and energy domains. This process significantly increases the scope for design possibilities and presents opportunities for arbitrary structure development, which are ultimately key for nanophotonic design. Nanosculpting introduces yet another capability to the electron microscope.