2021: ACS Nano
We offer a detailed investigation of the photophysical properties of plasmonic solid and hollow gold nanospheres suspended in water by combining ultrafast transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. TA reveals that hollow gold nanospheres (HGNs) exhibit faster excited state relaxation and larger amplitude acoustic phonon modes than solid gold nanoparticles of the same outer diameter. MD simulation carried out on full scale nanoparticle–water models (over 10 million atoms) to simulate the temporal evolution (0–100 ps) of the thermally excited particles (1000 or 1250 K) provides atomic-scale resolution of the spatiotemporal temperature and pressure maps, as well as visualization of the lattice vibrational modes. For the 1000 K HGN, temperatures upward of 500 K in the vicinity of the shell surface were observed, along with pressures up to several hundred MPa in the inner cavity, revealing potential use as a photoinduced nanoreactor. Our approach of combining TA and MD provides a path to better understanding how thermal–structural properties (such as expansion and contraction) and thermal–optical properties (such as modulated dielectrics) manifest themselves as TA signatures. The detailed picture of heat transfer at interfaces should help guide nanoparticle design for a wide range of applications that rely on photothermal conversion, including photothermal coupling agents for nanoparticle-mediated photothermal therapy and photocatalysts for light-driven chemical reactions.