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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

Sara Rocchetti - Best poster at Chemical and NanoScience symposium

17 May 2023

Sara Rocchetti won the best poster award at the 10th Chemical and NanoScience symposium Newcastle (CNSN-X) with her work on DNA origami and nanophotonics. Well done!

EPSRC programme grant for Ubiquitous Optical Healthcare Technologies (UbOHT)

5 May 2023

An £8.6M EPSRC programme grant on Ubiquitous Optical Healthcare Technologies (UbOHT) has been awarded to Jeremy Baumberg along with other researchers from Cambridge, York, Strathclyde and Exeter, with the aim to build new types of low-cost biosensor to help with the monitoring, prevention and management of diseases. Read...

Top cited paper in Journal of Raman Spectroscopy

24 February 2023

The paper Eliminating irreproducibility in SERS substrates has been named top cited paper in the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy!!