Nanoconfined water vapour as a probe to evaluate plasmonic heating†
Engineering photothermal effects in plasmonic materials is of paramount importance for many applications, such as cancer therapy, chemical synthesis, cold catalysis and, more recently, metasurfaces. The evaluation of plasmonic heating at the nanoscale is challenging and generally requires sophisticated equipments and/or temperature-sensitive probes such as fluorescent molecules or materials. Here, we propose to use water vapor as a probe to evaluate the local heating around plasmonic nanoparticles. We demonstrate the concept for the case of a plasmonic colloidal film characterized by bi-modal nanoporosity. In particular, we exploit the thermal and light water liquid–vapor phase transitions taking place in the nanoporous medium that can be triggered by external stimuli, such as heating or irradiation, to obtain structural and optical variations in the film. The local temperature is then estimated using spectroscopic ellipsometry data acquired by a multimodal chamber. More generally, this method offers a simple and general approach to determine the local temperature that only requires a nanoporous material and water vapor, such as environmental humidity. In addition, this approach can be further generalized to other materials, vapor molecules or optical techniques.