The conversion of optical power to an electric potential is of general interest for energy applications and is typically obtained via optical excitation of semiconductor materials. We developed a method for achieving electric potential that uses an all-metal geometry based on the plasmon resonance in metal nanostructures. In arrays of gold nanoparticles on an indium tin oxide substrate and arrays of 100-nanometer-diameter holes in 20-nanometer-thick gold films on a glass substrate, we detected negative and positive surface potentials during monochromatic irradiation at wavelengths below or above the plasmon resonance, respectively. We observed plasmoelectric surface potentials as large as 100 millivolts under illumination of 100 milliwatts per square centimeter. Plasmoelectric devices may enable the development of all-metal optoelectronic devices that can convert light into electrical energy.

Photonic Materials

Sheldon, M.T, van de Groep, J, Brown, A.M, Polman, A, & Atwater, H.A. (2014). Plasmoelectric potentials in metal nanostructures. Science, 346(6211), 828–831. doi:10.1126/science.1258405