skip to content

NanoPhotonics Centre


Nanophotonic Catalysis

"Light is a powerful scalpel and carrier of information. If not for the diffraction-limit we would be able to focus light to nanometre length-scales, directly observe how molecules and atoms behave, and spectrally resolve their interactions. We would also be able to optically deliver just enough energy to exactly where it is needed for breaking molecular bonds and catalysing chemical reactions, eliminating the need for inefficient bulk-scale heating. Bypassing conventional optics, such nanoscale confinement of light does become possible using metals where incident light excites collective electron oscillations (plasmons) circumventing the diffraction limit." Dr. Bart de Nijs

Current work

Tracking Single Molecule Chemistry

Using atomic scale confinement of light, individual molecules can be optically isolated and tracked over time using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Due to the large amount of information contained in the fingerprinting SERS spectra from single molecules, unique insights into imprtant chemical processes can be obtained. For example, by pairing dynamic single molecule SERS spectra to extensive DFT calculations real-space information can be recreated of how molecules and atoms interact.

Key papers:

Griffiths et al. Nature Communications 12, 6759 (2021)

Huang et al. Science Advances 7, eabg1790 (2021)

Plasmon Enabled Photocatalysis

By combining the powerful optical properties of plasmonic nanomaterials with catalytically active compounds new optical nanotechnologies can be developed that are capable of efficiently converting optical energy into chemical work.

Key papers:

Sokołowski et al. Nature Nanotechnology 16, 1121 (2021)

Nanoscale Photo-Electro Chemistry

By contacting individual plasmonic nanoconstructs electrical biases can be applied across individual plasmonic nanogaps. This allows for electro-chemical processes to be tracked in real-time on the nanoscale using a range of optical interrogation techniques.

Key papers:

Kos et al. Nature communications 11, 3910 (2020)

Di Martino et al.Nature Electronics 3, 687 (2020)

Optically Controlled Chemistry

By using plasmonic constructs local reaction conditions can be modified, eliminating e.g. the need for slow and inefficient bulk scale heating. This allows for rapid switching on and off chemical reactions using light.

Key papers:

Huang et al. Faraday Discussions 214, 445 (2019)



Latest news

NanoPhotonics Centre visited by 533 high school students

28 September 2022

Why do grapes explode in a microwave oven? How does nanostructured chocolate look like? What do nanoparticles on a mirror and Homer Simpson have in common? As part of Physics at Work 2022 , 36 groups of high school students visited our exhibit about plasmonics and nano-optics. Read more here !

IOP news article about recent Sciences Advances paper

22 August 2022

A news article has been written about the recent Sciences Advances paper ' Optical suppression of energy barriers in single molecule-metal binding ' in the IOP optics and photonics research update. Read the article here !

Article featured in Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights

15 July 2022

The recent article 'Hollow-core optical fibre sensors for operando Raman spectroscopy investigation of Li-ion battery liquid electrolytes' has been selected as a featured article in the Nature Communications Editor's highlights. Congratulations to Ermanno and Tijmen! The Editor's highlights can be seen here: https://www...