Towards sensor applications of a polymer/Ag nanoparticle nanocomposite film
We have demonstrated the capability of a nanocomposite film made of a 2D array of Ag nanoparticles embedded into a poly(glycidyl methacrylate), PGMA, matrix to monitor the presence of organic vapors in the atmosphere. Specifically, changes in the extinction spectra of the submicron nanocomposite film are used to sense the vapors. The transformations of the spectra are fully reversible and reproducible upon multiple exposures. We associate this reversibility and reproducibility with the construction of the nanocomposite film where the cross-linked PGMA network is able to spatially restore its structure upon deswelling. The structure of the extinction spectrum of the film is governed by a collective surface plasmon mode excited in the Ag NPs array. It was found that spectral bands associated with normal and tangential components of the plasmon mode change their width and position when the nanocomposite is exposed to organic vapors. This is due to increasing the spacing between neighboring NPs and a decrease of the refractive index of the polymer caused by swelling of the PGMA matrix. Therefore, the level of spectral transformation is directly related to the level of polymer–solvent thermodynamic affinity where the higher affinity corresponds to the higher level of the swelling. Therefore, we expect that the nanocomposite films (when designed for a particular solvent) can be effectively used as a sensing element in a low-cost volatile organic compounds (VOC) sensor device operating in visual light.