Addressing the plasmonic hotspot region by site-specific functionalization of nanostructures†
Strong electromagnetic fields emerge around resonant plasmonic nanostructures, focusing the light in tiny volumes, usually referred to as hotspots. These hotspots are the key regions governing plasmonic applications since they strongly enhance properties, signals or energies arising from the interaction with light. For a maximum efficiency, target molecules or objects would be exclusively placed within hotspot regions. Here, we propose a reliable, universal and high-throughput method for the site-specific functionalization of hotspot regions over macroscopic areas. We demonstrate the feasibility of the approach using crescent-shaped nanostructures, which can be fabricated using colloidal lithography. These structures feature polarization-dependent resonances and near-field enhancement at their tips, which we use as target regions for the site-selective functionalization. We modify the fabrication process and introduce a defined passivation layer covering the central parts of the gold nanocrescent, which, in turn, selectively uncovers the tips and thus enables a localized functionalization with thiol molecules. We demonstrate and visualize a successful targeting of the hotspot regions by binding small gold nanoparticles and show a targeting efficiency of 90%. Finally, we demonstrate the versatility of the method exemplarily by translating the principle to different nanostructure geometries and architectures.