State-Resolved Metal Nanoparticle Dynamics Viewed through the Combined Lenses of Ultrafast and Magneto-optical Spectroscopies

Tian Zhao, Patrick J. Herbert, Hongjun Zheng, Kenneth L. Knappenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


ConspectusElectronic carrier dynamics play pivotal roles in the functional properties of nanomaterials. For colloidal metals, the mechanisms and influences of these dynamics are structure dependent. The coherent carrier dynamics of collective plasmon modes for nanoparticles (approximately 2 nm and larger) determine optical amplification factors that are important to applied spectroscopy techniques. In the nanocluster domain (sub-2 nm), carrier coupling to vibrational modes affects photoluminescence yields. The performance of photocatalytic materials featuring both nanoparticles and nanoclusters also depends on the relaxation dynamics of nonequilibrium charge carriers. The challenges for developing comprehensive descriptions of carrier dynamics spanning both domains are multifold. Plasmon coherences are short-lived, persisting for only tens of femtoseconds. Nanoclusters exhibit discrete carrier dynamics that can persist for microseconds in some cases. On this time scale, many state-dependent processes, including vibrational relaxation, charge transfer, and spin conversion, affect carrier dynamics in ways that are nonscalable but, rather, structure specific. Hence, state-resolved spectroscopy methods are needed for understanding carrier dynamics in the nanocluster domain.Based on these considerations, a detailed understanding of structure-dependent carrier dynamics across length scales requires an appropriate combination of spectroscopic methods. Plasmon mode-specific dynamics can be obtained through ultrafast correlated light and electron microscopy (UCLEM), which pairs interferometric nonlinear optical (INLO) with electron imaging methods. INLO yields nanostructure spectral resonance responses, which capture the system's homogeneous line width and coherence dynamics. State-resolved nanocluster dynamics can be obtained by pairing ultrafast with magnetic-optical spectroscopy methods. In particular, variable-temperature variable-field (VTVH) spectroscopies allow quantification of transient, excited states, providing quantification of important parameters such as spin and orbital angular momenta as well as the energy gaps that separate electronic fine structure states. Ultrafast two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy (2DES) can be used to understand how these details influence state-to-state carrier dynamics. In combination, VTVH and 2DES methods can provide chemists with detailed information regarding the structure-dependent and state-specific flow of energy through metal nanoclusters.In this Account, we highlight recent advances toward understanding structure-dependent carrier dynamics for metals spanning the sub-nanometer to tens of nanometers length scale. We demonstrate the use of UCLEM methods for arresting interband scattering effects. For sub-nanometer thiol-protected nanoclusters, we discuss the effectiveness of VTVH for distinguishing state-specific radiative recombination originating from a gold core versus organometallic protecting layers. This state specificity is refined further using femtosecond 2DES and two-color methods to isolate so-called superatom state dynamics and vibrationally mediated spin-conversion and emission processes. Finally, we discuss prospects for merging VTVH and 2DES methods into a single platform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1433-1442
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 19 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry


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