We report an infrared plasmonic nanosensor for label-free, sensitive, specific, and quantitative identification of nanometer-sized molecules. The device design is based on vertically coupled complementary antennas (VCCAs) with densely patterned hot-spots. We demonstrate experimentally that a monolayer of octadecanethiol (ODT) molecules (thickness 2.5 nm) leads to significant antenna resonance wavelength shift over 136 nm in the parallel mode, corresponding to 7.5 nm for each carbon atom in the molecular chain or 54 nm for each nanometer in analyte thickness. Additionally, all four characteristic vibrational fingerprint signals, including the weak CH3 modes, are clearly delineated experimentally in both sensing modes. Such a dual-mode sensing with a broad wavelength design range (2.5 to 4.5 μm) is potentially useful for multianalyte detection.
The nanoparticles form dense hot-spots, promote molecular adsorption, enhance near-field intensity 103 to 104 times, and improve ODT refractometric and fingerprint sensitivities. Our VCCA sensor structure offers a great design flexibility, dual-mode operation, and high detection sensitivity, making it feasible for broad applications from biomarker detection to environment monitoring and energy harvesting.