We report on the synthesis of novel branched organic-inorganic azo-polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) conjugates (Azo-POSS) and their use as a stable active medium to induce reversible plasmonic modulations of embedded metal nanostructures. A dense monolayer of silver nanocubes was deposited on a quartz substrate using the Langmuir-Blodgett technique and subsequently coated with an ultrathin Azo-POSS layer. The reversible light-induced photoisomerization between the trans and cis states of the azobenzene-terminated branched POSS material results in significant changes in the refractive index (up to 0.17) at a wavelength of 380 nm. We observed that the pronounced and reversible change in the surrounding refractive index results in a corresponding hypsochromic plasmonic shift of 6 nm in the plasmonic band of the embedded silver nanocubes. The reversible tuning of the plasmonic modes of noble-metal nanostructures using a variable-refractive-index medium opens up the possibility of fabricating photoactive, hybrid, ultrathin coatings with robust, real-time, photoinitiated responses for prospective applications in photoactive materials that can be reversibly tuned by light illumination.
Keywords: azobenzene conjugates; photoisomerization; plasmonic phenomena; polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane.