Robustness is a key issue for the applications of plasmonic substrates such as tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, surface-enhanced spectroscopies, enhanced optical biosensing, optical and optoelectronic plasmonic nanosensors and others. A novel approach for the fabrication of robust plasmonic substrates is presented, which relies on the coverage of gold nanostructures with diamond-like carbon (DLC) thin films of thicknesses 25, 55 and 105 nm. DLC thin films were grown by direct hydrocarbon ion beam deposition. In order to find the optimum balance between optical and mechanical properties of the considered robust plasmonic substrates, nanoindentation and wear resistance experiments as well as ablation experiment were performed. The mechanical properties of the layered substrates are tested via atomic force microscopy, evaluating spatially resolved threshold loads both for plastic deformation and breaking. DLC coating with thicknesses between 25 and 105 nm is found to considerably increase the mechanical strength of the substrates while at the same time ensuring conservation of sufficient field enhancements of the gold plasmonic substrates.
Applied Physics A: Materials Science and Processing, 2014, Vol 116, Issue 1, p. 151-159