Single-Molecule Plasmonic Optical Trapping
Abstract: The volume of the object that can be manipulated in solution is continuously decreasing toward an ultimate goal of a single molecule. However, Brownian motions suppress the molecular trapping. To date, free-molecule trapping in solution has not been accomplished. Here, we develop a strategy to directly trap, investigate, and release single molecules (∼2 nm) in solution by using an adjustable plasmonic optical nanogap, which has been further applied for selective single-molecule trapping. Comprehensive experiments and theoretical simulations demonstrated that the trapping force originated from plasmonic nanomaterials. This technique opens an avenue to manipulate single molecules and other objects in the size range of primary interest for physics, chemistry, and life and material sciences without the limitations of strong bonding group, ultra-high vacuum, and ultra-low temperature, and makes possible controllable single-molecule manipulation and investigation as well as bottom-up construction of nanodevices and molecular machines.