Self-assembling two-dimensional nanophotonic arrays for reflectivity-based sensing†
We propose a nanoplasmonic platform that can be used for sensing trace levels of heavy metals in solutions via simple optical reflectivity measurements. The considered example is a lead sensor, which relies on the lead-mediated assembly of glutathione-functionalized gold nanoparticles (NPs) at a self-healing water/DCE liquid | liquid interface (LLI). Capillary forces tend to trap each NP at the LLI while the negatively charged ligands prevent the NPs settling too close to each other. In the presence of lead, due to chelation between the lead ion and glutathione ligand, the NPs assemble into a dense quasi-2D interfacial array. Such a dense assembly of plasmonic NPs can generate a remarkable broad-band reflectance signal, which is absent when NPs are adsorbed at the interface far apart from each other. The condensing effect of the LLI and the plasmonic coupling effect among the NP array gives rise to a dramatic enhancement of the reflectivity signals. Importantly, we show that our theory of the optical reflectivity from such an array of NPs works in perfect harmony with the physics and chemistry of the system with the key parameter being the interparticle distance at the interface. As a lead sensor, the system is fast, stable, and can achieve detection limits down to 14 ppb. Future alternative recognizing ligands can be used to build sister platforms for detecting other heavy metals.