A light-driven three-dimensional plasmonic nanosystem that translates molecular motion into reversible chiroptical function

Nat Commun. 2016 Feb 2;7:10591. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10591.


Nature has developed striking light-powered proteins such as bacteriorhodopsin, which can convert light energy into conformational changes for biological functions. Such natural machines are a great source of inspiration for creation of their synthetic analogues. However, synthetic molecular machines typically operate at the nanometre scale or below. Translating controlled operation of individual molecular machines to a larger dimension, for example, to 10-100 nm, which features many practical applications, is highly important but remains challenging. Here we demonstrate a light-driven plasmonic nanosystem that can amplify the molecular motion of azobenzene through the host nanostructure and consequently translate it into reversible chiroptical function with large amplitude modulation. Light is exploited as both energy source and information probe. Our plasmonic nanosystem bears unique features of optical addressability, reversibility and modulability, which are crucial for developing all-optical molecular devices with desired functionalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.