Understanding How Acoustic Vibrations Modulate the Optical Response of Plasmonic Metal Nanoparticles

Aftab Ahmed, Matthew Pelton, Jeffrey R. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Measurements of acoustic vibrations in nanoparticles provide an opportunity to study mechanical phenomena at nanometer length scales and picosecond time scales. Vibrations in noble-metal nanoparticles have attracted particular attention because they couple to plasmon resonances in the nanoparticles, leading to strong modulation of optical absorption and scattering. There are three mechanisms that transduce the mechanical oscillations into changes in the plasmon resonance: (1) changes in the nanoparticle geometry, (2) changes in electron density due to changes in the nanoparticle volume, and (3) changes in the interband transition energies due to compression/expansion of the nanoparticle (deformation potential). These mechanisms have been studied in the past to explain the origin of the experimental signals; however, a thorough quantitative connection between the coupling of phonon and plasmon modes has not yet been made, and the separate contribution of each coupling mechanism has not yet been quantified. Here, we present a numerical method to quantitatively determine the coupling between vibrational and plasmon modes in noble-metal nanoparticles of arbitrary geometries and apply it to silver and gold spheres, shells, rods, and cubes in the context of time-resolved measurements. We separately determine the parts of the optical response that are due to shape changes, changes in electron density, and changes in deformation potential. We further show that coupling is, in general, strongest when the regions of largest electric field (plasmon mode) and largest displacement (phonon mode) overlap. These results clarify reported experimental results and should help guide future experiments and potential applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9360-9369
Number of pages10
JournalACS nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 26 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Use of the Center for Nanoscale Materials, an Office of Science user facility, was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. This material is based upon work supported by Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding from Argonne National Laboratory, provided by the Director, Office of Science, of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. This material is based in part on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DMR-1554895. The authors thank Prof. John Sader and Dr. Debadi Chakraborty for helpful discussions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.


  • acoustic vibrations
  • nanoparticle
  • optical response
  • phonons
  • plasmons
  • transient absorption


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