Objective: To generate enhanced absorption and emission of light in the ultraviolet (UV) region by structuring an aluminum by electrolysis (passing electrical current for polishing by controlled corrosion).
Approach: Benchtop electro-polishing is used to produce aluminum with nanoscale roughness, which can enhance the UV absorption and emission by molecules on its metal surface. The aluminum is treated with a surfactant which attracts polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds from water to the aluminum surface.
Results and Significance: Both the absorption and emission of ultraviolet light by pyrene (PAH compound) are enhanced by more than 30-fold on nanostructured aluminum, compared to an equivalent control sample on sapphire (aluminum oxide). Such surfaces are shown to be important for sensitive environmental sensing of various molecular compounds.