Composite nanomaterials allow for attractive properties of multiple functional components to be combined. Fundamental understanding of the interaction between different nanomaterials, their surroundings, and nearby molecular species is pertinent for implementation into devices. Metal nanoparticles have been used for their optical properties in many applications including stained glass, cancer therapy, solar steam generation, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), and catalysis. Carbon-based nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes show potential for a wide variety of applications including solar energy harvesting, chemical sensors, and electronics. Combining useful and in some cases new properties of composite nanomaterials offers exciting opportunities in fundamental science and device development. In this dissertation, I aim to address understanding photoinduced interaction between porphyrin and silver nanoparticles, inter-sheet interaction between stacked graphene oxide (GO) sheets in thin films, complexation of reduced GO with Raman active target molecule in SERS applications, and efficacy of graphene-metal nanoparticle composites for sensing applications. Molecule-metal nanoparticle composite material made up of photoactive porphyrin and silver nanoparticles was studied using various spectroscopic tools. UV-visible absorption and surface enhanced Raman spectroscopic results suggest formation of a charge-transfer complex for porphyrin-silver nanoparticle composite. Ultrafast transient absorption and fluorescence upconversion spectroscopies further corroborate electronic interaction by providing evidence for excited state electron transfer between porphyrin and silver nanoparticles. Understanding electronic interaction between adsorbed photoactive molecules and metal nanoparticles may be of use for applications in photocatalysis or light-energy harvesting.
Graphene oxide (GO) thin films have been prepared and studied using transient absorption microscopy (TAM). Transient absorption microscopy correlated with atomic force microscope allows for the morphological properties of GO thin film to be related to optical properties, namely dynamics of photoexcited carriers in GO. Results suggest short-timescale (ps – ~1 ns) dynamics of charge carriers in GO are affected very little by interaction with the glass substrate on which GO is placed. Also, the stack thickness or number of stacked GO sheets does not play a large role in the short-timescale dynamics of GO charge carriers.
GO or reduced GO (RGO)-silver nanoparticles composites were produced using different methods: (1) chemical reduction of silver ion precursor and (2) photocatalytic reduction of GO and silver ion using TiO2 nanoparticles. Optical and morphological properties of composites were studied using spectroscopy and electron microscopy revealing a degree of control in metal nanoparticle growth and loading on the surface of RGO. Nanocomposites were shown to be capable of complexing with or adsorbing target molecular species. Complexation and adsorption are corroborated with demonstration that the composite nanomaterials act as effective SERRS sensors taking advantage of localized surface plasmon resonance of metal nanoparticles and the ability of RGO to interact with molecular and ionic species.