Nanoporous gold metamaterials for high sensitivity plasmonic sensing†
Surface plasmon resonance sensors are a well-established class of sensors that includes a very large variety of materials and detection schemes. However, the development of portable devices is still challenging due to the intrinsic complexity of the optical excitation/detection schemes. This work shows that nanoporous gold (NPG) films can overcome the said limitations by providing an excellent sensitivity without the need for sophisticated fabrication approaches and/or optical setups. The sensing mechanism is related to the co-localization of optical energy and analytes in the pores fostering an enhanced light–matter coupling. As a result, when molecules are adsorbed in the pores, the NPG film shows a significant spectral shift of the effective plasma frequency and an abrupt change of the reflectivity. By monitoring the reflectivity in the spectral region close to the plasma frequency (namely the plasma edge), it is possible to detect the analyte. Through a series of experiments, the authors demonstrated a sensitivity exceeding 15 000 nm per RIU in the near infrared range comparable with the state of the art of plasmonic metamaterials.