Characterising the size and shape of metallic nano-structures by their acoustic vibrations†
The characterisation of metallic nano-structures is of great importance as their optical properties are strongly dependent on their size and shape. Inaccurate size or shape characterisation can result in misleading measurements in applications such as bio-imaging and sensing. Characterisation techniques such as dynamic light scattering, electron microscopy or atomic force microscopy are commonly used; however, performing sub-surface measurements (inside semi-transparent objects) or in liquid media are very challenging. Here, we use time-resolved pump–probe spectroscopy to characterise the size and shape of metallic nano-structures in a water surrounding medium by using their vibrational modes. We show that this technique can achieve size measurements with a precision of 3 nm for the largest nano-structures which are in agreement with electron microscopy images. Furthermore, we demonstrate the ability to probe individual nano-structures despite being located in the same optical point spread function (PSF). Combining the high precision and sub-optical measurements provided by this technique with the ability to insert metallic nano-structures inside biological samples might open a way to perform 3D characterisation measurements.