Surface-enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) spectroscopy has outstanding potential in chemical detection as a complement to surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), yet it has historically lagged well behind SERS in detection sensitivity. Here we report a new ultrasensitive infrared antenna designed to bring SEIRA spectroscopy into the few-molecule detection range. Our antenna consists of a bowtie-shaped Au structure with a sub-3 nm gap, positioned to create a cavity above a reflective substrate. This three-dimensional geometry tightly confines incident mid-infrared radiation into its ultrasmall junction, yielding a hot spot with a theoretical SEIRA enhancement factor of more than 107, which can be designed to span the range of frequencies useful for SEIRA. We quantitatively evaluated the IR detection limit of this antenna design using mixed monolayers of 4-nitrothiophenol (4-NTP) and 4-methoxythiolphenol (4-MTP). The optimized antenna structure allows the detection of as few as ∼500 molecules of 4-NTP and ∼600 molecules of 4-MTP with a standard commercial FTIR spectrometer. This strategy offers a new platform for analyzing the IR vibrations of minute quantities of molecules and lends insight into the ultimate limit of single-molecule SEIRA detection.
Keywords: FTIR; SEIRA; bowtie antenna; mixed self-assembled monolayers; nanogap.