Sub-Tip-Radius Near-Field Interactions in Nano-FTIR Vibrational Spectroscopy on Single Proteins

Jun Nishida, Akihiro Otomo, Takanori Koitaya, Akitoshi Shiotari, Taketoshi Minato, Ryota Iino and Takashi Kumagai

Nano Letters 24, 836 (2024)

Tip-enhanced vibrational spectroscopy has advanced to routinely attain nanoscale spatial resolution, with tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy even achieving atomic-scale and submolecular sensitivity. Tip-enhanced infrared spectroscopy techniques, such as nano-FTIR and AFM-IR spectroscopy, have also enabled the nanoscale chemical analysis of molecular monolayers, inorganic nanoparticles, and protein complexes. However, fundamental limits of infrared nanospectroscopy in terms of spatial resolution and sensitivity have remained elusive, calling for a quantitative understanding of the near-field interactions in infrared nanocavities. Here, we demonstrate the application of nano-FTIR spectroscopy to probe the amide-I vibration of a single protein consisting of ∼500 amino acid residues. Detection with higher tip tapping demodulation harmonics up to the seventh order leads to pronounced enhancement in the peak amplitude of the vibrational resonance, originating from sub-tip-radius geometrical effects beyond dipole approximations. This quantitative characterization of single-nanometer near-field interactions opens the path toward employing infrared vibrational spectroscopy at the subnanoscale and single-molecule levels.