Precise Subnanometer Plasmonic Junctions for SERS within Gold Nanoparticle Assemblies Using Cucurbit[n]uril "Glue"

Richard W. Taylor, Tung-Chun Lee, Oren A. Scherman, Ruben Esteban, Javier Aizpurua, Fu Min Huang, Jeremy J. Baumberg, Sumeet Mahajan, Fumin Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

317 Citations (Scopus)


Cucurbit[n]urils (CB[n]) are macrocyclic host molecules with subnanometer dimensions capable of binding to gold surfaces. Aggregation of gold nanoparticles with CB[n] produces a repeatable, fixed, and rigid interparticle separation of 0.9 nm, and thus such assemblies possess distinct and exquisitely sensitive plasmonics. Understanding the plasmonic evolution is key to their use as powerful SERS substrates. Furthermore, this unique spatial control permits fast nanoscale probing of the plasmonics of the aggregates "glued" together by CBs within different kinetic regimes using simultaneous extinction and SERS measurements. The kinetic rates determine the topology of the aggregates including the constituent structural motifs and allow the identification of discrete plasmon modes which are attributed to disordered chains of increasing lengths by theoretical simulations. The CBs directly report the near-field strength of the nanojunctions they create via their own SERS, allowing calibration of the enhancement. Owing to the unique barrel-shaped geometry of CB[n] and their ability to bind "guest" molecules, the aggregates afford a new type of in situ self-calibrated and reliable SERS substrate where molecules can be selectively trapped by the CB[n] and exposed to the nanojunction plasmonic field. Using this concept, a powerful molecular-recognition-based SERS assay is demonstrated by selective cucurbit[n]uril host-guest complexation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3878-3887
Number of pages10
JournalACS Nano
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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