Diffusion dynamics and characterization of attogram masses using laser-induced plasma imaging of single nanoparticles

P. Purohit, J. Fortes, J.J. Laserna, Nano Research, in press


In the present work, a wavelength-selected plasma imaging analysis system is presented and used to track photons emitted from single-trapped nanoparticles in air at atmospheric pressure. The isolated nanoentities were atomized and excited into plasma state using single nanosecond laser pulses. The use of appropriate wavelength filters alongside time-optimized acquisition settings enabled the detection of molecular and atomic emissions in the plasma. The photon detection efficiency of the imaging line resulted in a signal >400 times larger than the simultaneously-acquired dispersive spectroscopy data. The increase in sensitivity outlined the evolution of diverse physicochemical processes at the single particle scale which included heat and momentum transfer from the plasma into the particle as wells as chemical reactions. The imaging detection of excited fragments evidenced different diffusion kinetics and time frames for atoms and molecules and their influence upon both the spectroscopic emission readout and fabrication processes using the plasma as a reactor. Moreover, the origin of molecular species, whether naturally-occurring or derived from a chemical reaction in the plasma, could also be studied on the basis of compositional gradients found on the images. Limits of detection for the inspected species ranged from tens to hundreds attograms, thus leading to an exceptional sensing principle for single nanoentities that may impact several areas of science and technology.

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