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Silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) tarnish easily upon exposure to ambient air, and eventually lose their ability as a plasmonic sensor via weakened localized surface plasmon resonance(LSPR). We have demonstrated the enhancement in plasmonic sensitivity of tarnished Ag NP aggregates to vapors of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as ethanol and butanol by Ar plasma exposure. The response of Ag NP aggregates to the VOC vapors was examined by measuring the change in optical extinction spectra before and after exposure to the vapors. The sensitivity of Ag NP aggregates decreased gradually when stored in ambient air. The performance of tarnished Ag NPs for ethanol sensing was recovered by exposure to argon (Ar) plasma for 15 s. The reduction from oxidized Ag to metallic one was recognized, while morphological change was hardly noticeable after the plasma exposure. We conclude, therefore, that a compositional change rather than a morphological change occurred on Ag NP surfaces enhances the sensing ability of tarnished Ag NP aggregates to the VOC vapors.

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This article originally appeared in Applied Surface Science 427 Part A, 2018, Pages 848-853.

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