Spatial temperature mapping within polymer nanocomposites undergoing ultrafast photothermal heating via gold nanorods
Heat emanates from gold nanorods (GNRs) under ultrafast optical excitation of the localized surface plasmon resonance. The steady state nanoscale temperature distribution formed within a polymer matrix embedded with GNRs undergoing pulsed femtosecond photothermal heating is determined experimentally using two independent ensemble optical techniques. Physical rotation of the nanorods reveals the average local temperature of the polymer melt in the immediate spatial volume surrounding each rod while fluorescence of homogeneously-distributed perylene molecules monitors temperature over sample regions at larger distances from the GNRs. Polarization-sensitive fluorescence measurements of the perylene probes provide an estimate of the average size of the quasi-molten region surrounding each nanorod (that is, the boundary between softened polymer and solid material as the temperature decreases radially away from each particle) and distinguishes the steady state temperature in the solid and melt regions. Combining these separate methods enables nanoscale spatial mapping of the average steady state temperature distribution caused by ultrafast excitation of the GNRs. These observations definitively demonstrate the presence of a steady-state temperature gradient and indicate that localized heating via the photothermal effect within materials enables nanoscale thermal manipulations without significantly altering the bulk sample temperature in these systems. These quantitative results are further verified by re-orienting nanorods within a solid polymer nanofiber without inducing any morphological changes to the highly temperature-sensitive nanofiber surface. Temperature differences of 70–90 °C were observed over a distances of ∼100 nm.