Single-Molecule Imaging Using Atomistic Near-Field Tip-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy

Pengchong Liu, Dhabih V. Chulhai, Lasse Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Advances in tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) have demonstrated ultrahigh spatial resolution so that the vibrational modes of individual molecules can be visualized. The spatial resolution of TERS is determined by the confinement of the plasmon-induced field in the junction; however, the conditions necessary for achieving the high spatial confinement required for imaging individual molecules are not fully understood. Here, we present a systematic theoretical study of TERS imaging of single molecules, using a hybrid atomistic electrodynamics-quantum mechanical method. This approach provides a consistent treatment of the molecule and the plasmonic near field under conditions where they cannot be treated separately. In our simulations, we demonstrate that TERS is capable of resolving intricate molecule vibrations with atomic resolution, although we find that TERS images are extremely sensitive to the near field in the junction. Achieving the atomic resolution requires the near field to be confined within a few ångstroms in diameter and the near-field focal plane to be in the molecule plane. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the traditional surface selection rule of Raman spectroscopy is altered due to the significant field confinement that leads to significant field-gradient effects in the Raman scattering. This work provides insights into single-molecule imaging based on TERS and Raman scattering of molecules in nanojunctions with atomic dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5094-5102
Number of pages9
JournalACS nano
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 23 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.


  • field-gradient effect
  • gap plasmons
  • near-field confinement
  • resonant Raman scattering
  • single-molecule imaging
  • tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy


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