Photonic and plasmonic refractive index sensors are able to detect increasingly smaller refractive index changes and concentrations of clinically relevant substances. They typically exploit optical resonances and aim to maximise the field overlap with the analyte in order to achieve high sensitivity. Correspondingly, they operate on the basis of maximizing the bulk sensitivity, which favours spatially extended modes. We note that this strategy, counter-intuitively, is not necessarily suitable for detecting biomolecules and one should focus on the surface sensitivity instead. Here, we show that by confining light tightly in metal-insulator-metal (MIM) nanoresonators, the surface sensitivity is significantly increased despite a clear decrease in bulk sensitivity. In particular, we experimentally show the operation of third order MIM resonators which support both extended surface plasmon polariton (SPP) modes and localized MIM modes. We are able to demonstrate that the MIM mode has a sensitivity of 55 nm/RIU to a 10 nm layer, which is approximately twice as high as that of the SPP mode. Overall, our work emphasizes the importance of the surface sensitivity over the more commonly used bulk sensitivity and it shows a novel approach for improving it. These insights are highly relevant for the design of next generation optical biosensors.
Bibliographical note© 2020 George Duffett et al.
- refractive index sensing
- surface sensitivity