Periodic plasmonic nanostructures on a thin homogeneous metal layer are used to excite surface plasmons (SPs) for normal incident light in the optical communication band. The structures are engineered using rigorous coupled-wave analysis by considering sensitivity, linewidth, and reflection amplitude as the evaluation parameters. The presence of SP mode at the thin metal–substrate interface in the proposed plasmonic device adds a self-reference capability while capturing the minute refractive index and thickness variations. The wavelength shift in SP mode at the nanostructure–analyte interface is used to measure the changes in the refractive index of the analyte, and the number of waveguide modes is used to capture the changes in the thickness of the analyte. The proposed engineered plasmonic nanostructures offer a sensitivity of 1100 nm/refractive index unit and a resonance line width of 18 nm while taking into account the fabrication constraints. The proposed structures are further simulated for the detection of hemoglobin concentration (using its refractive index measurement) in human blood in the optical communication band (1450 to 1520 nm). The normal incident action eases the integration of engineered plasmonic substrate with optical fibers that can be used both to excite SP and to interrogate the spectral reflectance.
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