Published: 26 August 2012, 10:32
Together with colleagues from The Netherlands and Germany, the ACP scientist Prof. Volker Deckert published an original research article on "Catalytic processes monitored at the nanoscale with tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy" (Nature Nanotechnol. 7, 583-586, 2012).
Heterogeneous catalysts play a pivotal role in the chemical industry, but acquiring molecular insights into functioning catalysts remains a significant challenge. Recent advances in micro-spectroscopic approaches have allowed spatiotemporal information to be obtained on the dynamics of single active sites and the diffusion of single molecules. However, these methods lack nanometre-scale spatial resolution and/or require the use of fluorescent labels. Here, we show that time-resolved tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy can monitor photocatalytic reactions at the nanoscale. We use a silver-coated atomic force microscope tip to both enhance the Raman signal and to act as the catalyst. The tip is placed in contact with a self-assembled monolayer of p-nitrothiophenol molecules adsorbed on gold nanoplates. A photocatalytic reduction process is induced at the apex of the tip with green laser light, while red laser light is used to monitor the transformation process during the reaction. This dual-wavelength approach can also be used to observe other molecular effects such as monolayer diffusion.