Fabrication and near-field visualization of a wafer-scale dense plasmonic nanostructured array†
Developing a sensor that identifies and quantifies trace amounts of analyte molecules is crucially important for widespread applications, especially in the areas of chemical and biological detection. By non-invasively identifying the vibrational signatures of the target molecules, surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has been widely employed as a tool for molecular detection. Here, we report on the reproducible fabrication of wafer-scale dense SERS arrays and single-nanogap level near-field imaging of these dense arrays under ambient conditions. Plasmonic nanogaps densely populated the spaces among globular Ag nanoparticles with an areal density of 120 particles per μm2 upon application of a nanolithography-free simple process consisting of the Ar plasma treatment of a polyethylene terephthalate substrate and subsequent Ag sputter deposition. The compact nanogaps produced a high SERS enhancement factor of 3.3 × 107 and homogeneous (coefficient of variation of 8.1%) SERS response. The local near fields at these nanogaps were visualized using photo-induced force microscopy that simultaneously enabled near-field excitation and near-field force detection under ambient conditions. A high spatial resolution of 3.1 nm was achieved. Taken together, the generation of a large-area SERS array with dense plasmonic nanogaps and the subsequent single-nanogap level characterization of the local near field have profound implications in the nanoplasmonic imaging and sensing applications.