Imaging Intra- and Interparticle Acousto-plasmonic Vibrational Dynamics with Ultrafast Electron Microscopy

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We report real-space, time-resolved imaging of coherently excited acoustic phonon modes in plasmonic nanoparticles via femtosecond electron imaging with an ultrafast electron microscope. The particles studied were cetyl trimethylammonium bromide stabilized Au nanorods (40 × 120 nm), and the particular specimen configurations for which photoinduced vibrational modes were visualized consisted of a single, isolated nanocrystal and a cluster of four irregularly arranged and randomly oriented particles, all supported on an amorphous Si3N4 membrane. In both configurations, we are able to resolve discrete intraparticle acoustic phonon modes via diffraction-contrast modulation with bright-field femtosecond electron imaging. For the single nanorod, we spatiotemporally mapped the intraparticle vibrational energy distribution and decay times. With Fourier filtering, acoustic phonons ranging from 4 to 30 GHz (250 to 33 ps periods, respectively) were visualized, corresponding to bending, extensional, and higher-order modes. Furthermore, heterogeneously distributed intraparticle decay times, ranging from 3 to 10 ns, were spatially mapped, indicating a strong dependence on coupling of the mode to the underlying substrate. For a cluster of four randomly oriented nanorods, we are able to image acoustic phonon modes that are strongly localized to particular particle-particle contact regions within the aggregate. A vibrational mode occurring at 27 GHz (37 ps period) was observed to occur at a 10 nm side-to-end contact region, with other intraparticle points at distances of 20 and 50 nm from the region showing no such dynamics, although the initial few-picosecond diffraction-contrast response was observed changing sign in moving from the end to the center of the particle. Excellent agreement is found between the spatiotemporally mapped vibrational-mode symmetries and finite-element simulations of supported modes in a polymer-coated Au nanorod supported on a Si3N4 membrane. This experiment resolves both the structure and dynamic properties of the plasmonic assembly, providing insight into the characteristics of complex plasmonic assemblies that ultimately determine their response to ultrafast excitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7302-7308
Number of pages7
JournalNano letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 9 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported partially by the National Science Foundation through the University of Minnesota MRSEC under award no. DMR-1420013 and partially by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation through a Beckman Young Investigator Award. Additional support was provided by a Ray D. and Mary T. Johnson/Mayon Plastics Professorship through the University of Minnesota Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.


  • Gold nanorods
  • lattice vibrations
  • pump-probe
  • ultrafast structural dynamics

MRSEC Support

  • Partial

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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