Measuring Molecular Diffusion through Thin Polymer Films with Dual-Band Plasmonic Antennas

Hao Chen, Gaurav Singhal, Frank Neubrech, Runyu Liu, Joshua S. Katz, Scott Matteucci, Steven G. Arturo, Daniel Wasserman, Harald Giessen, Paul V. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A general and quantitative method to characterize molecular transport in polymers with good temporal and high spatial resolution, in complex environments, is an important need of the pharmaceutical, textile, and food and beverage packaging industries, and of general interest to the polymer science community. Here we show how the amplified infrared (IR) absorbance sensitivity provided by plasmonic nanoantenna-based surface enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) provides such a method. SEIRA enhances infrared (IR) absorbances primarily within 50 nm of the nanoantennas, enabling localized quantitative detection of even trace quantities of analytes and diffusion measurements in even thin polymer films. Relative to a commercial attenuated total internal reflection (ATR) system, the limit of detection is enhanced at least 13-fold, and as is important for measuring diffusion, the detection volume is about 15 times thinner. Via this approach, the diffusion coefficient and solubility of specific molecules, including l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), ethanol, various sugars, and water, in both simple and complex mixtures (e.g., beer and a cola soda), were determined in poly(methyl methacrylate), high density polyethylene (HDPE)-based, and polypropylene-based polyolefin films as thin as 250 nm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10393-10405
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 22 2021


  • diffusion
  • nanoantennas
  • organic molecules
  • plasmonics
  • polymer
  • surface-enhanced infrared spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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