Intellectual Merit: Plasmonic nanophotonics has been an extremely active research area in recent years, but there remain directions for exploration rich with opportunities for new discoveries and implications for a new generation of engineered photonic devices. The purpose of this research is to explore the emission and energy transfer properties of molecules and quantum dots located within and nearby metal nanocavities; these studies are designed with device applications in mind. A complete picture of the excitation and radiative enhancement mechanisms in metallic nanocavities has yet to be painted; this research will systematically study these enhancement mechanisms and their optimization. One important outcome of these studies lies in the comparison of nanocavity enhancements to published enhancements associated with nanoparticles, which have received much greater attention. In addition, studies of energy transfer mechanisms between donor and acceptor species located within and in proximity to metallic nanocavities will be performed. Overall, these studies have important implications to nanosensors and efficient light-emitting and energy-harvesting devices.
Broader Impact: The new generation of nanophotonic devices will have broader impacts with strong societal implications. For example, highly sensitive nanoscale moleculear transducers can form the basis for a new type of microarray which can be used to screen across many thousands of low copy number target species from small initial sample volumes, thus mitigating the need for amplification steps. These types of inexpensive, compact, and highly sensitive microarrays will usher in the new era of personalized medicine, where genetic profiles will be used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Students involved in this research will experience an inherently cross-disciplinary environment at the forefront of nanocavity research, which incorporates elements from Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, Physics, and Chemistry and they will have collaborative opportunities with counterparts from other, international, research groups.