This paper applies rigorous diffraction theory to evaluate the minimum mass sensitivity of a confocal optical microscope designed to excite and detect surface plasmons operating on a planar metallic substrate. The diffraction model is compared with an intuitive ray picture which gives remarkably similar predictions. The combination of focusing the surface plasmons and accurate phase measurement mean that under favorable but achievable conditions detection of small numbers of molecules is possible, however, we argue that reliable detection of single molecules will benefit from the use of structured surfaces. System configurations needed to optimize performance are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics