Nanoplasmonic sensing has over the last two decades emerged as and diversified into a very promising experimental platform technology for studies of biomolecular interactions and for biomolecule detection (biosensors). Inspired by this success, in more recent years, nanoplasmonic sensing strategies have been adapted and tailored successfully for probing functional nanomaterials and catalysts in situ and in real time. An increasing number of these studies focus on using the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) as an experimental tool to study a process of interest in a nanomaterial, with a materials science focus. The key assets of nanoplasmonic sensing in this area are its remote readout, non-invasive nature, single particle experiment capability, ease of use and, maybe most importantly, unmatched flexibility in terms of compatibility with all material types (particles and thin/thick layers, conductive or insulating) are identified. In a direct nanoplasmonic sensing experiment the plasmonic nanoparticles are active and simultaneously constitute the sensor and the studied nano-entity. In an indirect nanoplasmonic sensing experiment the plasmonic nanoparticles are inert and adjacent to the material of interest to probe a process occurring in/on this material. In this review we define and discuss these two generic experimental strategies and summarize the growing applications of nanoplasmonic sensors as experimental tools to address materials science-related questions.
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