General Background

Optical nanospectroscopy uses ultraviolet (UV), visible, and near-infrared (NIR) light sources for obtaining nanoscale information via the interaction of light and matter. It offers unique possibilities of probing nature at the nanoscale with extremely high spatial, temporal, spectral, and/or chemical resolution. Nanospectroscopy encompasses the application of spectroscopic techniques with nanoscale resolution, techniques for the detection and spectral analysis of nano-objects or nano-patterns, and processes that take place at the nanoscale. It can be applied to metallic, semiconducting, or molecular systems that can be prepared using bottom-up or top-down strategies, and even living cells. Nanospectroscopy methods have seen tremendous improvement over the last two decades, boosting their sensitivity down to the single molecule level. Such methods have since been applied e.g. to visualize the distribution of chemical components or strain, to monitor energy and charge flow in composite materials or between single nano-objects, and to access biological processes on a sub-cellular level. These novel insights can be exploited, amongst others, for improving photovoltaics and energy efficiencies, engineering materials with desirable surface properties, or evolving targeted drug delivery. State-of-the-art UV/Vis/NIR nanospectroscopy is thus an invaluable tool that allows us to address a wide range of crucial issues in biotechnology, medicine, materials engineering, energy, or light harvesting. These big issues however cannot be solved by a single research group alone.

Optical nanospectroscopy is a method-based approach. In order to make substantial scientific progress by using nanospectroscopic techniques, a joint effort by all parties concerned is required. This includes experts in the preparation of novel sample materials (nanoparticles, quantum dots, bio samples, nanostructures, molecular engineering, hybrid structures, opto-electronic devices), experts in instrumentation (including relevant industry), experts in performing the elaborate nanospectroscopic experiments (Raman or near-field spectroscopy, pump-probe / time-resolved experiments, dark field / absorption spectroscopy, ...), and experts in data analysis and modelling. Strong expertise on these different aspects of nanospectroscopy exists all across Europe. The COST Action NanoSpectroscopy is intended to bring together this expertise in a broad interdisciplinary, multinational European effort.

This NanoSpectroscopy Action results from a longstanding collaboration between groups from several COST countries. These groups have previously organized joint schools, workshops, and bilateral visits. However, financing these events, and especially the participation of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), has always proved difficult. This core group therefore now aims to strengthen their networking activities and increase the number of discussion partners. Here the big advantage of carrying this project out within the COST framework, rather than in the more individual research project centred alternative European programs, becomes apparent. The COST Action will establish contacts and links between researchers from the above fields, collect them in one joint Action, and attract additional contributors which the core group may not have been aware of before. With the help of the COST funding for networking and outreach activities, the Participants can meet and discuss new ideas, mutually visit laboratories, synergistically share equipment, exchange students, learn about new techniques hands-on, discuss with industry, exchange samples and identify future research projects. Without the COST Action, networking would always be subject to the initiative of individual researchers, restricted to a much smaller target group, and entirely depending on the availability of individual national or third-party travel funding.