This paper gives a theoretical basis for a new method for determining the relaxation characteristics of collective electronic excitations in small metallic particles, based on measurement of the fluorescence spectrum of localized plasmons. The method is applied to an island film consisting of sodium particles about 10 nm across. The film was created by thermal sputtering in vacuum onto a fused quartz substrate. The width of the linear absorption spectrum of the film reached 0.5 eV because of scatter of the particles in shape and size. When the film was excited with picosecond pulses of neodymium-laser radiation, it was possible to distinguish the incoherent part of the scattering at frequencies close to the second-harmonic frequency of the exciting radiation. The spectrum of this radiation, which is interpreted as the fluorescence of plasmons excited in resonance particles, has been recorded for the first time. The relaxation time of the plasmons is determined from the width of the fluorescence spectrum. © 2004 Optical Society of America

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