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Optically Driven Gold Nanoparticles Seed Surface Bubble Nucleation in Plasmonic Suspension

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posted on 2023-11-30, 20:51 authored by Qiushi Zhang, Ruiyang Li, Eungkyu Lee, Tengfei Luo
Photothermal surface bubbles play important roles in a wide range of applications like catalysis, microfluidics and biosensing, but their formation on a transparent substrate immersed in a plasmonic nanoparticle (NP) suspension has an unknown origin. Here, we show that NPs deposited on the substrate by dispersive optical forces are responsible for the nucleation of such photothermal surface bubbles. High-speed videography shows that the surface bubble formation is always preceded by the optically driven NPs moving toward and adhering to the surface. We observe that the thresholds of laser power density to form a surface bubble drastically differ depending on if the surface is forward- or backward-facing the light propagation direction, which cannot be explained by a purely thermal process (e.g., volumetric heating by plasmonic NPs). This can be attributed to different optical power densities needed to enable optical pulling and pushing of NPs in the suspension. Optical pulling requires higher light intensity to excite supercavitation around NPs to enable proper optical configuration. Eventually, these optically deposited NPs work as a surface photothermal heater, seeding the surface bubble nucleation. We also find that there is a critical number density of deposited NPs to nucleate a surface bubble at a given laser power density, and it is nearly the same for both the forward- and the backward-facing surfaces. Our finding reveals interesting physics leading to photothermal surface bubble generation in plasmonic NP suspensions.

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