Gold-poly(methyl methacrylate) nanocomposites are prepared by an in situ method, by irradiating spin-coated films containing the polymer and the gold precursor dissolved in acetone. The reduction of gold ions results in the formation of Au that nucleates and grows within the polymer film. It is shown that, depending on the energy source, gold nanoparticles with different shapes can be formed. Nanocomposites prepared through UV-, thermal-, and MW-irradiation, respectively, show a low sensitivity toward the environment. However, by annealing the samples at temperatures well above the glass transition temperature of the polymer, the response to dielectric environment appears to be enhanced significantly. The sensitivity of samples synthesized through the three different methods is found to be comparable, around 100 nm/RIU. The increased sensitivity of the annealed sample is accounted for by the increased mobility of both polymer chains and gold nanoparticles in the rubbery state of the material and the presence of the monomer. Gold nanoparticles “freed” from the strong interaction with the polymer are now able to feel the molecules from the surrounding environment. The results show that, by using adequate post-synthesis heat treatments, gold-polymer nanocomposites can be used as plasmonic sensing platforms.
Alsawafta, M., S. Badilescu, A. Paneri, V.-V. Truong, M. Packirisamy