Molecular cage-bridged plasmonic structures with well-defined nanogaps as well as the capability of reversible and selective guest trapping†
Creating well-defined plasmonic hotspots with enormous field enhancements as well as the capability of selectively trapping targeted molecules into hotspots is of critical importance and a prerequisite for numerous plasmon-assisted applications, but it represents a great challenge. In this work, a robust molecular cage decorated with thioether moieties at the periphery was designed and synthesized. By using the synthesized cage as a linker, a series of molecular cage-bridged plasmonic structures with well-defined nanogaps (hotspots) were fabricated in an efficient and controllable fashion. It was found both experimentally and theoretically that the nanogaps of about 1.2 nm created by the molecular cage in the resultant plasmonic structures led to a strong plasmon coupling, thus inducing great field enhancement inside the nanogaps. More importantly, the embedded molecular cages endowed the formed hotspots with the capability of selectively trapping targeted molecules, offering huge opportunities for many emergent applications. As a demonstration, the hotspots constructed were used as a unique nanoreactor, and under mild conditions two types of plasmon-driven chemical transformation were successfully performed. All the results clearly indicate that the integration of the host–guest chemistry of the molecular cage with the plasmon-coupling effect of metal particles afforded a new class of plasmonic structures, showing great potential for facilitating a broad variety of plasmon-based applications.