In this project, funded by the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Chemistry Division, Prof. Yadong Yin of the University of California, Riverside, and his students incorporate magnetic actuation into noble metal nanostructures to achieve active tuning of plasmonic properties. A long-term goal of this research is the development of novel hybrid optical nanostructures with many technological applications in data storage, photonic devices, and chemical and biomedical sensors. The team studies two types of magnetic responsive plasmonic nanostructures: one involves magnetically induced assembly and disassembly of plasmonic nanoparticles and the other utilizes magnetic alignment of anisotropic noble metal nanostructures to achieve active tuning of the plasmonic properties. To enable reversible tuning of the plasmonic property, the surfaces of these metal nanoparticles are engineered to produce sufficiently repulsive interactions that can balance the magnetically induced attractive force and prevent permanent aggregation. New synthetic methods are developed to create many complex hybrid materials that are integrated with both magnetic and plasmonic properties, providing very useful tools for studying and controlling the plasmonic properties through the movement, rotation, and assembly of the metal nanoparticles.
The resulting hybrid materials find great use in practical applications that may have very positive impacts on our society, including novel visual displays, optical sensors, anticounterfeiting devices, therapeutic agents for tumors, targeted drug delivery, and many enhanced sensing and imaging devices. The project also targets expanding research-based learning at UCR and in the wider community by engaging high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in research. Undergraduate students are attracted to the research program through regular academic and summer internship programs, student clubs and organizations, and collaborative programs with local small liberal arts colleges. Undergraduate and graduate students are provided with opportunities to present their discoveries in national meetings and other public settings. Students are also encouraged to report their research activities and findings in the form of video presentations that can be shared with their classmates, friends, family members, and others on their social networks, thus disseminating research outcomes from the laboratory to the general public. Prof. Yin is also deeply involved in science fair competition in order to promote high school students' interests in science and engineering.