There is a pressing global need to increase the use of renewable energy sources and limit greenhouse gas emissions. Towards this goal, highly efficient and molecularly selective chemical processes that operate under mild conditions are critical. Plasmonic photocatalysis uses optically-resonant metallic nanoparticles and their resulting plasmonic, electronic, and phononic light-matter interactions to drive chemical reactions. The promise of simultaneous high-efficiency and product-selective reactions with plasmon photocatalysis provides a compelling opportunity to rethink how chemistry is achieved. Plasmonic nanoparticles serve as nanoscale ‘antennas’ that enable strong light–matter interactions, surpassing the light-harvesting capabilities one would expect purely from their size. Complex composite structures, combining engineered light harvesters with more chemically active components, are a focal point of current research endeavors. In this review, we provide an overview of recent advances in plasmonic catalysis. We start with a discussion of the relevant mechanisms in photochemical transformations and explain hot-carrier generation and distributions from several ubiquitous plasmonic antennae. Then we highlight three important types of catalytic processes for sustainable chemistry: ammonia synthesis, hydrogen production and CO2 reduction. To help elucidate the reaction mechanism, both state-of-art electromagnetic calculations and quantum mechanistic calculations are discussed. This review provides insights to better understand the mechanism of plasmonic photocatalysis with a variety of metallic and composite nanostructures toward designing and controlling improved platforms for green chemistry in the future.
As the field matures, its researchers are finding practical applications in solar-energy harvesting, chemical manufacturing, optical refrigeration, and energy-efficient computing.
Dynamic metasurface control is a promising yet challenging prospect for next generation optical components. Here, we design and characterize a thermally controllable metasurface lens, with a high-quality-factor (high-Q) resonance working as both the basis of the lensing behavior and method for efficient modulation. Our high-Q lens is constructed via a zone plate architecture comprised of alternating regions with and without resonant character. Non-resonant regions block transmission, while resonant regions-with measured Qs up to ~1350-transmit only on resonance. By leveraging the thermo-optic effect, we dynamically control the spectral position of the high-Q resonance to achieve wavelength selectivity of the focusing behavior. Due to the sharp spectral linewidth and amplitude variation of the high-Q resonance, thermal tuning can further result in metasurface switching, where the lensing behavior is changed between on and off states. For a device utilizing only moderate Q-factors of ~350, the resonance's FWHM can be shifted with temperature changes of only 50 °C, and the device can be fully switched off when operating at 100 °C. Our work provides an initial experimental demonstration of dynamic control of a local high-Q wavefront shaping metasurface.
When light interacts with matter by means of scattering and absorption, we observe the resulting color. Light also probes the symmetry of matter and the result is encoded in its polarization. In the special case of circularly-polarized light, which is especially relevant in nonlinear optics, quantum photonics, and physical chemistry, a critical dimension of symmetry is along the longitudinal direction. We examine recent advances in controlling circularly-polarized light and reveal that the commonality in these advances is in judicious control of longitudinal symmetry. In particular, in the use of high quality-factor modes in dielectric metasurfaces, the finite thickness can be used to tune the modal profile. These symmetry considerations can be applied in multiplexed optical communication schemes, deterministic control of quantum emitters, and sensitive detection of the asymmetry of small molecules.
Carotenoid pigments are the basis for much red, orange, and yellow coloration in nature and central to visual signaling. However, as pigment concentration increases, carotenoid signals not only darken and become more saturated but they also redshift; for example, orange pigments can look red at higher concentration. This occurs because light experiences exponential attenuation, and carotenoid-based signals have spectrally asymmetric reflectance in the visible range. Adding pigment disproportionately affects the high-absorbance regions of the reflectance spectra, which redshifts the perceived hue. This carotenoid redshift is substantial and perceivable by animal observers. In addition, beyond pigment concentration, anything that increases the path length of light through pigment causes this redshift (including optical nano- and microstructures). For example, male Ramphocelus tanagers appear redder than females, despite the same population and concentration of carotenoids, due to microstructures that enhance light–pigment interaction. This mechanism of carotenoid redshift has sensory and evolutionary consequences for honest signaling in that structures that redshift carotenoid ornaments may decrease signal honesty. More generally, nearly all colorful signals vary in hue, saturation, and brightness as light–pigment interactions change, due to spectrally asymmetrical reflectance within the visible range of the relevant species. Therefore, the three attributes of color need to be considered together in studies of honest visual signaling.
Genetic analysis methods are foundational to advancing personalized medicine, accelerating disease diagnostics, and monitoring the health of organisms and ecosystems. Current nucleic acid technologies such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and next-generation sequencing (NGS) rely on sample amplification and can suffer from inhibition. Here, we introduce a label-free genetic screening platform based on high quality (high-Q) factor silicon nanoantennas functionalized with nucleic acid fragments. Each high-Q nanoantenna exhibits average resonant quality factors of 2,200 in physiological buffer. We quantitatively detect two gene fragments, SARS-CoV-2 envelope (E) and open reading frame 1b (ORF1b), with high-specificity via DNA hybridization. We also demonstrate femtomolar sensitivity in buffer and nanomolar sensitivity in spiked nasopharyngeal eluates within 5 minutes. Nanoantennas are patterned at densities of 160,000 devices per cm2, enabling future work on highly-multiplexed detection. Combined with advances in complex sample processing, our work provides a foundation for rapid, compact, and amplification-free molecular assays.
Identifying pathogens in complex samples such as blood, urine, and wastewater is critical to detect infection and inform optimal treatment. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and machine learning (ML) can distinguish among multiple pathogen species, but processing complex fluid samples to sensitively and specifically detect pathogens remains an outstanding challenge. Here, we develop an acoustic bioprinter to digitize samples into millions of droplets, each containing just a few cells, which are identified with SERS and ML. We demonstrate rapid printing of 2 pL droplets from solutions containing S. epidermidis, E. coli, and blood; when they are mixed with gold nanorods (GNRs), SERS enhancements of up to 1500 are achieved. We then train a ML model and achieve greater than or equal to 99 percent classification accuracy from cellularly pure samples and greater than or equal to 87 percent accuracy from cellularly mixed samples. We also obtain greater than or equal to 90 percent accuracy from droplets with pathogen:blood cell ratios less than 1. Our combined bioprinting and SERS platform could accelerate rapid, sensitive pathogen detection in clinical, environmental, and industrial settings.
Optical metasurfaces offer unprecedented flexibility in light wave manipulation but suffer weak resonant enhancement. Tackling this problem, we experimentally unveil a new phase gradient metasurface platform made entirely from individually addressable high quality factor (high-Q) silicon meta-atoms. Composed of pairs of nearly identical nanoblocks, these meta-atoms support dipolar-guided-mode resonances that, due to the controlled suppression of radiation loss, serve as highly sensitive phase pixels when placed above a mirror. A key novelty of this platform lies in the vanishingly small structural perturbations needed to produce universal phase fronts. Having fabricated elements with Q-factor approximately 380 and spaced by lambda/1.2, we achieve strong beam steering, up to 59 percent efficient , to angles 32.3, 25.3, and 20.9 degrees, with variations in nanoantenna volume fractions across the metasurfaces of less than or equal to 2.6%, instead of greater than 50% required by traditional versions. Aside from extreme sensitivity, the metasurfaces exhibit near-field intensity enhancement over 1000x. Taken together, these properties represent an exciting prospect for dynamic and nonlinear wave shaping.
The ideal catalyst for energy-intensive reactions such as CO2 reduction and waste treatment is non-toxic and sustainable and leaves no unwanted by-products. Solvated electrons, while traditionally prepared by ionizing radiation or by dissolving alkali metals in harsh solvents, are otherwise ideal reducing agents. For the past 50 years, it has been proposed that solvated electrons could be produced by photoexcitation of roughened metal electrodes, but to date no study has demonstrated a clear mechanism for their generation, hindering the optimization and use of solvated electrons as climate-friendly catalysts. Here, we establish this missing link using a combination of electrochemical detection, spectroscopy, structural characterization, and simulations to show that plasmons create solvated electrons in the most sustainable solvent - water. Solvated electrons are powerful reducing agents capable of driving some of the most energetically expensive reduction reactions. Their generation under mild and sustainable conditions remains challenging though. Using near-ultraviolet irradiation under low-intensity one-photon conditions coupled with electrochemical and optical detection, we show that the yield of solvated electrons in water is increased more than 10 times for nanoparticle-decorated electrodes compared to smooth silver electrodes. Based on the simulations of electric fields and hot carrier distributions, we determine that hot electrons generated by plasmons are injected into water to form solvated electrons. Both yield enhancement and hot carrier production spectrally follow the plasmonic near-field. The ability to enhance solvated electron yields in a controlled manner by tailoring nanoparticle plasmons opens up a promising strategy for exploiting solvated electrons in chemical reactions....
Researchers have demonstrated a new electron field emitter with unprecedented brightness and spectral purity, promising a breakthrough in electron microscope spectroscopy.
Dynamically reconfigurable metasurfaces promise compact and lightweight spatial light modulation for many applications, including LiDAR, AR/VR, and LiFi systems. Here, we design and computationally investigate high-quality-factor silicon-on-lithium niobate metasurfaces with electrically driven, independent control of its constituent nanobars for full phase tunability with high tuning efficiency. Free-space light couples to guided modes within each nanobar via periodic perturbations, generating quality factors exceeding 30,000 while maintaining a bar spacing of /1.5. We achieve nearly 2? phase variation with an applied bias not exceeding 25 V, maintaining a reflection efficiency above 91%. Using full-field simulations, we demonstrate a high-angle (51 ) switchable beamsplitter with a diffracted efficiency of 93% and an angle-tunable beamsteerer, spanning 18?31 , with up to 86% efficiency, all using the same metasurface device. Our platform provides a foundation for highly efficient wavefront-shaping devices with a wide dynamic tuning range capable of generating nearly any transfer function.
Upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) are an emerging platform for mechanical force sensing at the nanometer scale. An outstanding challenge in realizing nanometer-scale mechano-sensitive UCNPs is maintaining a high mechanical force responsivity in conjunction with bright optical emission. This Letter reports mechano-sensing UCNPs based on the lanthanide dopants Yb3+ and Er3+, which exhibit a strong ratiometric change in emission spectra and bright emission under applied pressure. We synthesize and analyze the pressure response of five different types of nanoparticles, including cubic NaYF4 host nanoparticles and alkaline-earth host materials CaLuF, SrLuF, SrYbF, and BaLuF, all with lengths of 15 nm or less. By combining optical spectroscopy in a diamond anvil cell with single-particle brightness, we determine the noise equivalent sensitivity (GPa/?Hz) of these particles. The SrYb0.72Er0.28F@SrLuF particles exhibit an optimum noise equivalent sensitivity of 0.26 0.04 GPa/?Hz. These particles present the possibility of robust nanometer-scale mechano-sensing.
Palladium’s strong reactivity and absorption affinity to H2 makes it a prime material for hydrogen-based technologies. Alloying of Pd has been used to tune its mechanical stability, catalytic activity, and absorption thermodynamics. However, atomistic mechanisms of hydrogen dissociation and intercalation are informed predominantly by theoretical calculations, owing to the difficulty in imaging dynamic metal–gas interactions at the atomic scale. Here, we use in situ environmental high resolution transmission electron microscopy to directly track the hydrogenation-induced lattice expansion within AgPd triangular nanoprisms. We investigate the thermodynamics of the system at the single particle level and show that, contrary to pure Pd nanoparticles, the AgPd system exhibits α/β coexistence within single crystalline nanoparticles in equilibrium; the nanoparticle system also moves to a solid-solution loading mechanism at lower Ag content than bulk. By tracking the lattice expansion in real time during a phase transition, we see surface-limited β phase growth, as well as rapid reorientation of the α/β interface within individual particles. This secondary rate corresponds to the speed with which the β phase can restructure and, according to our atomistic calculations, emerges from lattice strain minimization. We also observe no preferential nucleation at the sharpest nanoprism corners, contrary to classical nucleation theory. Our results achieve atomic lattice plane resolution─crucial for exploring the role of crystal defects and single atom sites on catalytic hydrogen splitting and absorption.
Nanoparticle photocatalysts are essential to processes ranging from chemical production and water purification to air filtration and surgical instrument sterilization. Photochemical reactions are generally mediated by the illumination of metallic and/or semiconducting nanomaterials, which provide the necessary optical absorption, electronic band structure, and surface faceting to drive molecular reactions. However, with reaction efficiency and selectivity dictated by atomic and molecular interactions, imaging and controlling photochemistry at the atomic scale are necessary to both understand reaction mechanisms and to improve nanomaterials for next-generation catalysts. Here, we describe how advances in plasmonics, combined with advances in electron microscopy, particularly optically coupled transmission electron microscopy (OTEM), can be used to image and control light-induced chemical transformations at the nanoscale. We focus on our group’s research investigating the interaction between hydrogen gas and Pd nanoparticles, which presents an important model system for understanding both hydrogenation catalysis and hydrogen storage. The studies described in this Account primarily rely on an environmental transmission electron microscope, a tool capable of circumventing traditional TEM’s high-vacuum requirements, outfitted with optical sources and detectors to couple light into and out of the microscope. First, we describe the H2 loading kinetics of individual Pd nanoparticles. When confined to sizes of less than ∼100 nm, single-crystalline Pd nanoparticles exhibit coherent phase transformations between the hydrogen-poor α-phase and hydrogen-rich β-phase, as revealed through monitoring the bulk plasmon resonance with electron energy loss spectroscopy. Next, we describe how contrast imaging techniques, such as phase contrast STEM and displaced-aperture dark field, can be employed as real-time techniques to image phase transformations with 100 ms temporal resolution. Studies of multiply twinned Pd nanoparticles and high aspect ratio Pd nanorods demonstrate that internal strain and grain boundaries can lead to partial hydrogenation within individual nanoparticles. Finally, we describe how OTEM can be used to locally probe nanoparticle dynamics under optical excitation and in reactive chemical environments. Under illumination, multicomponent plasmonic photocatalysts consisting of a gold nanoparticle “antenna” and a Pd “reactor” show clear α-phase nucleation in regions close to electromagnetic “hot spots” when near plasmonic antennas. Importantly, these hot spots need not correspond to the traditionally active, energetically preferred sites of catalytic nanoparticles. Nonthermal effects imparted by plasmonic nanoparticles, including electromagnetic field enhancement and plasmon-derived hot carriers, are crucial to explaining the site selectivity observed in PdHx phase transformations under illumination. This Account demonstrates how light can contribute to selective chemical phenomena in plasmonic heterostructures, en route to sustainable, solar-driven chemical production.
Deep neural networks and other sophisticated machine learning models are widely applied to biomedical signal data because they can detect complex patterns and compute accurate predictions. However, the difficulty of interpreting such models is a limitation, especially for applications involving high-stakes decision, including the identification of bacterial infections. In this paper, we consider fast Raman spectroscopy data and demonstrate that a logistic regression model with carefully selected features achieves accuracy comparable to that of neural networks, while being much simpler and more transparent. Our analysis leverages wavelet features with intuitive chemical interpretations, and performs controlled variable selection with knockoffs to ensure the predictors are relevant and non-redundant. Although we focus on a particular data set, the proposed approach is broadly applicable to other types of signal data for which interpretability may be important.
Lanthanide-doped nanophosphors have emerged as promising optical labels for high-resolution, “multicolor” electron microscopy. Here, we develop a library of 11 unique lanthanide-doped nanophosphors with average edge lengths of 15.2 ± 2.0 nm (N = 4284). These nanophosphors consist of an electron-stable BaYF5 host lattice doped at 25% atomic concentration with the lanthanides Pr3+, Nd3+, Sm3+, Eu3+, Tb3+, Dy3+, Ce3+, Ho3+, Er3+, Tm3+, and Yb3+. Under ∼100 pA/nm2 beam current in a transmission electron microscope, each nanophosphor species exhibits strong cathodoluminescence spectra with sharp characteristic emission lines for each lanthanide. The bright emission and stability of these nanoparticles enable not only ensemble, but also single-particle cathodoluminescence spectroscopy, which we demonstrate with BaYF5:Ln3+, where Ln3+ = Tb3+, Ho3+, Er3+, Sm3+, Eu3+, or Pr3+. Single-particle cathodoluminescence corresponds directly with HAADF intensity across nanoparticles, confirming high spatial localization of the measured cathodoluminescence signal of lanthanide-doped nanophosphors. Our synthesis and characterization of sub-20 nm, electron-stable nanophosphors provides a robust material platform to achieve single-molecule labeled correlative cathodoluminescence electron microscopy, a critical foundation for high-resolution correlation of single molecules within the context of cellular ultrastructure.
Molecular imaging is a crucial technique in clinical diagnostics but it relies on radioactive tracers or strong magnetic fields that are unsuitable for many patients, particularly infants and pregnant women. Ultra-high-frequency radio-frequency acoustic (UHF-RF-acoustic) imaging using non-ionizing RF pulses allows deep-tissue imaging with sub-millimetre spatial resolution. However, lack of biocompatible and targetable contrast agents has prevented the successful in vivo application of UHF-RF-acoustic imaging. Here we report our development of targetable nanodroplets for UHF-RF-acoustic molecular imaging of cancers. We synthesize all-liquid nanodroplets containing hypertonic saline that are stable for at least 2 weeks and can produce high-intensity UHF-RF-acoustic signals. Compared with concentration-matched iron oxide nanoparticles, our nanodroplets produce at least 1,600 times higher UHF-RF-acoustic signals at the same imaging depth. We demonstrate in vivo imaging using the targeted nanodroplets in a prostate cancer xenograft mouse model expressing gastrin release protein receptor (GRPR), and show that targeting specificity is increased by more than 2-fold compared with untargeted nanodroplets or prostate cancer cells not expressing this receptor.
Mark Stockman was a founding member and evangelist for the plasmonics field for most of his creative life. He never sought recognition, but fame came to him in a different way. He will be dearly remembered by colleagues and friends as one of the most influential and creative contributors to the science of light from our generation.
Nonradiative processes limit optoelectronic functionality of nanocrystals and curb their device performance. Nevertheless, the dynamic structural origins of nonradiative relaxations in such materials are not understood. Here, femtosecond electron diffraction measurements corroborated by atomistic simulations uncover transient lattice deformations accompanying radiationless electronic processes in colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals. Investigation of the excitation energy dependence in a core/shell system shows that hot carriers created by a photon energy considerably larger than the bandgap induce structural distortions at nanocrystal surfaces on few picosecond timescales associated with the localization of trapped holes. On the other hand, carriers created by a photon energy close to the bandgap of the core in the same system result in transient lattice heating that occurs on a much longer 200 picosecond timescale, dominated by an Auger heating mechanism. Elucidation of the structural deformations associated with the surface trapping of hot holes provides atomic-scale insights into the mechanisms deteriorating optoelectronic performance and a pathway towards minimizing these losses in nanocrystal devices.
The light sources that power photonic networks are small and scalable, but they also require the incorporation of optical isolators that allow light to pass in one direction only, protecting the light source from damaging backreflections. Unfortunately, the size and complex integration of optical isolators makes small-scale and densely integrated photonic networks infeasible. Here, we overcome this limitation by designing a single device that operates both as a coherent light source and as its own optical isolator. Our design relies on high-quality-factor dielectric metasurfaces that exhibit intrinsic chirality. By carefully manipulating the geometry of the constituent silicon metaatoms, we design three-dimensionally chiral modes that act as optical spin-dependent filters. Using spin-polarized Raman scattering together with our chiral metacavity, we demonstrate Raman lasing in the forward direction, while the lasing action is suppressed by over an order of magnitude for reflected light. Our high-Q chiral metasurface design presents a new approach toward compactly isolating integrated light sources by directly tailoring the emission properties of the light source itself.
Phase gradient metasurfaces have revolutionized modern optical components by significantly reducing the path length of bulk optics while maintaining high performance. However, their geometric design makes dynamic modulation challenging, with devices facing a trade-off between the modulation range and efficiency. Here, we introduce Silicon-on-Lithium Niobate (LNO) high-Quality-factor (high-Q) metasurfaces for efficient electro-optic wavefront shaping and modulation. Periodic perturbations within Si metasurface elements allow incident light to be weakly coupled into guided modes, generating high-Q resonances that manifest in the far-field diffraction spectrum. The near field of each Si element spatially overlaps with the LNO substrate, enabling electrically tunable modulation of the resonant frequency. Using full-field simulations, we demonstrate near-infrared, dynamically tunable beamsteering, and beamsplitting metasurfaces. First, we demonstrate beamsteering metasurfaces whose +1st order diffracted intensity can be modulated from 70% to 7% absolute efficiency near the resonant frequency with applied electric fields of order V/μm. Next, we design a tunable beam splitter, switching between direct, 0th order transmission and beamsplitting with the application of 30 V across the metasurface. Our high-Q electro-optic metasurfaces provide a foundation for efficient, time-dependent transfer functions in subwavelength footprints.
Nanoparticle surface structure and geometry generally dictate where chemical transformations occur, with higher chemical activity at sites with lower activation energies. Here, we show how optical excitation of plasmons enables spatially modified phase transformations, activating otherwise energetically unfavorable sites. We have designed a crossed-bar Au-PdHx antenna-reactor system that localizes electromagnetic enhancement away from the innately reactive PdHx nanorod tips. Using optically coupled in situ environmental transmission electron microscopy, we track the dehydrogenation of individual antenna-reactor pairs with varying optical illumination intensity, wavelength, and hydrogen pressure. Our in situ experiments show that plasmons enable new catalytic sites, including dehydrogenation at the nanorod faces. Molecular dynamics simulations confirm that these new nucleation sites are energetically unfavorable in equilibrium and only accessible through tailored plasmonic excitation.
The structural arrangement of fibrous tissue is linked to the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, fibrosis, and cancer, yet its visualization remains challenging with conventional optical microscopy. Here, we design a guided-mode-resonant dielectric metasurface to detect the presence and orientation of fibrous tissue, modeled as a linearly birefringent anisotropic medium, by colorimetric readout. The metasurface consists of nanoscale Si3N4 (215 nm) and SiO2 (75 nm) layers on a SiO2 substrate, acting as a broadband antireflection coating, patterned with subwavelength-periodic rhombohedral perturbations, which result in guided-mode resonances with sub-10 nm bandwidth. Using full-field simulations, we show how transition from air to tissue in the dielectric environment at the metasurface interface results in a red-to-green change in reflected structural color, while the birefringence and orientation of an anisotropic medium manifests as a green-to-blue change. Importantly, the birefringence-based tuning of the guided mode resonances is spectrally separated from refractive-index-based displacements, allowing quantitative discrimination between both the index and structural arrangement of anisotropic media. We numerically simulate the application of our metasurface to cancer tissue diagnostics, predicting how changes in reflected structural color at the tumor margin can distinguish localized, early stage from metastasized, late-stage cancers. The quantitative, colorimetric mapping of tissue orientation angle marks an improved performance in comparison to polarized light microscopy, where multiple orientation angles yield an identical response. Our guided-mode-resonant metasurface provides a foundation for all-optical, label-free, and quantitative colorimetric visualization of fibrous biological media on a single, clinically compatible chip, promising improvements in staging and treatment decisions.
Increasing the sensitivity of chiral spectroscopic techniques such as circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy is a current aspiration in the research field of nanophotonics. Enhancing CD spectroscopy depends upon of two complementary requirements: the enhancement of the electromagnetic fields perceived by the molecules under study and the conservation of the helicity of those fields, guaranteed by duality symmetry. In this work, we introduce a systematic method to design nanostructured dual periodic photonic systems capable of enhancing molecular CD spectroscopy resonantly. As an illustration, we engineer a dual 1D silicon nanoparticle array and show that its collective optical modes can be efficiently employed to resonantly enhance by two orders of magnitude the local density of optical chirality and, thus, the CD signal obtained from a given molecular sample on its vicinity.
Densely interconnected, nonlinear, and reconfigurable optical networks represent a route to high-performance optical computing, communications, and sensing technologies. Dielectric nanoantennas are promising building blocks for such architectures since they can precisely control optical diffraction. However, they are traditionally limited in their nonlinear and reconfigurable responses owing to their relatively low-quality factor (Q-factor). Here, we highlight new and emerging design strategies to increase the Q-factor while maintaining control of optical diffraction, enabling unprecedented spatial and temporal control of light. We describe how multipolar modes and bound states in the continuum increase Q and show how these high-Q nanoantennas can be cascaded to create almost limitless resonant optical transfer functions. With high-Q nanoantennas, new paradigms in reconfigurable wavefront-shaping, low-noise, multiplexed biosensors and quantum transduction are possible.
Lanthanide nanoparticles (LNPs) are promising sensors of chemical, mechanical, and temperature changes; they combine the narrow-spectral emission and long-lived excited states of individual lanthanide ions with the high spatial resolution and controlled energy transfer of nanocrystalline architectures. Despite considerable progress in optimizing LNP brightness and responsiveness for dynamic sensing, detection of stimuli with a spatial resolution approaching that of individual nanoparticles remains an outstanding challenge. Here, we highlight the existing capabilities and outstanding challenges of LNP sensors, en-route to nanometer-scale, single particle sensor resolution. First, we summarize LNP sensor read-outs, including changes in emission wavelength, lifetime, intensity, and spectral ratiometric values that arise from modified energy transfer networks within nanoparticles. Then, we describe the origins of LNP sensor imprecision, including sensitivity to competing conditions, interparticle heterogeneities, such as the concentration and distribution of dopant ions, and measurement noise. Motivated by these sources of signal variance, we describe synthesis characterization feedback loops to inform and improve sensor precision, and introduce noise-equivalent sensitivity as a figure of merit of LNP sensors. Finally, we project the magnitudes of chemical and pressure stimulus resolution achievable with single LNPs at nanoscale resolution. Our perspective provides a roadmap for translating ensemble LNP sensing capabilities to the single particle level, enabling nanometer-scale sensing in biology, medicine, and sustainability.
Strong enhancement of molecular circular dichroism (CD) has the potential to enable efficient asymmetric photolysis, a method of chiral separation that has conventionally been impeded by insufficient yield and low enantiomeric excess. Here, we study experimentally how predicted enhancements in optical chirality density near resonant silicon nanodisks boost CD. We use fluorescence-detected circular dichroism (FDCD) spectroscopy to measure indirectly the differential absorption of circularly polarized light by a monolayer of optically active molecules functionalized to silicon nanodisk arrays. Importantly, the molecules and nanodisk antennas have spectrally coincident resonances, and our fluorescence technique allows us to deconvolute absorption in the nanodisks from the molecules. We find that enhanced FDCD signals depend on nanophotonic resonances, in good agreement with simulated differential absorption and optical chirality density, while no signal is detected from molecules adsorbed on featureless silicon surfaces. These results verify the potential of nanophotonic platforms to be used for asymmetric photolysis with lower energy requirements.
All‐optical control and detection of magnetic states for high‐density recording necessitate nanophotonic approaches to amplify local light intensity below the diffraction limit. Sculpting the near‐field phase and polarization can additionally strengthen magneto‐optical effects that rely on circularly polarized pulses, such as all‐optical helicity‐dependent switching, imaging, and spin‐wave excitation. Here, high‐refractive‐index dielectric nanoantennas illuminated with circularly polarized light resonantly enhance local electric field rotation by more than sixfold within [Pt/Co]N thin films. Sub‐wavelength arrays of amorphous Si nanodisks, or metasurfaces, patterned on perpendicularly magnetized films support Mie‐type resonances that modulate reflection and transmission dissymmetry by >±2% in experiments. Spatial and spectral interference between dipolar modes, proximity effects, and gain are evaluated by varying disk aspect ratio, metasurface–metal separation, and magnetic film thickness, respectively. Simulated enhancements in magnetic circular birefringence and differential absorption are correlated with amplified local field rotation at electric dipolar modes. Greater achievable amplifications are shown via simulations with single‐crystalline Si metasurfaces exhibiting lower losses, including a 12‐fold strengthened electric field rotation within ferromagnetic layers. The metasurface design rules established here could enable nanoscale localization of all‐optical magnetic switching with lowered laser fluence thresholds, as well as enhanced magneto‐optical responses for light‐assisted reading in spintronic devices.
Upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) are promising candidates for photon‐driven reactions, including light‐triggered drug delivery, photodynamic therapy, and photocatalysis. Herein, we investigate the NIR‐to‐UV/visible emission of sub‐15 nm alkaline‐earth rare‐earth fluoride UCNPs (M1−xLnxF2+x, MLnF) with a CaF2 shell. We synthesize 8 alkaline‐earth host materials doped with Yb3+ and Tm3+, with alkaline‐earth (M) spanning Ca, Sr, and Ba, MgSr, CaSr, CaBa, SrBa, and CaSrBa. We explore UCNP composition, size, and lanthanide doping‐dependent emission, focusing on upconversion quantum yield (UCQY) and UV emission. UCQY values of 2.46 % at 250 W cm−2 are achieved with 14.5 nm SrLuF@CaF2 particles, with 7.3 % of total emission in the UV. In 10.9 nm SrYbF:1 %Tm3+@CaF2 particles, UV emission increased to 9.9 % with UCQY at 1.14 %. We demonstrate dye degradation under NIR illumination using SrYbF:1 %Tm3+@CaF2, highlighting the efficiency of these UCNPs and their ability to trigger photoprocesses.
Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is a promising cellular identification and drug susceptibility testing platform, provided it can be performed in a controlled liquid environment that maintains cell viability. We investigate bacterial liquid-SERS, studying plasmonic and electrostatic interactions between gold nanorods and bacteria that enable uniformly-enhanced SERS. We synthesize five nanorod sizes with longitudinal plasmon resonances ranging from 670-860 nm and characterize SERS signatures of Gram-negative Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, and Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria in water. Varying the concentration of bacteria and nanorods, we achieve large-area SERS enhancement that is independent of nanorod resonance and bacteria type; however, bacteria with higher surface charge density exhibit significantly higher SERS signal. Using cryo-electron microscopy and zeta potential measurements, we show that higher signal results from attraction between positively-charged nanorods and negatively-charged bacteria. Our robust liquid-SERS measurements provide a foundation for bacterial identification and drug testing in biological fluids.
Dielectric microcavities with quality factors (Q-factors) in the thousands to billions markedly enhance light–matter interactions, with applications spanning high-efficiency on-chip lasing, frequency comb generation and modulation and sensitive molecular detection. However, as the dimensions of dielectric cavities are reduced to subwavelength scales, their resonant modes begin to scatter light into many spatial channels. Such enhanced scattering is a powerful tool for light manipulation, but also leads to high radiative loss rates and commensurately low Q-factors, generally of order ten. Here, we describe and experimentally demonstrate a strategy for the generation of high Q-factor resonances in subwavelength-thick phase gradient metasurfaces. By including subtle structural perturbations in individual metasurface elements, resonances are created that weakly couple free-space light into otherwise bound and spatially localized modes. Our metasurface can achieve Q-factors >2,500 while beam steering light to particular directions. High-Q beam splitters are also demonstrated. With high-Q metasurfaces, the optical transfer function, near-field intensity and resonant line shape can all be rationally designed, providing a foundation for efficient, free-space-reconfigurable and nonlinear nanophotonics.
We propose and theoretically analyze a vibrational spectroscopy imaging technique, termed, termed electron- and light-induced stimulated Raman (ELISR) scattering, that combines the high spatial resolution of electron microscopy with the molecular sensitivity of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. With ELISR, electron-beam excitation of plasmonic nanoparticles is utilized as a spectrally-broadband but spatially-confined Stokes beam in the presence of a diffraction-limited pump laser. To characterize this technique, we develop a numerical model and conduct full-field electromagnetic simulations to investigate two distinct nanoparticle geometries, nanorods, and nanospheres, coated with a Raman-active material. Our results show the significant stimulated Raman enhancement that is achieved with dual electron and optical excitation of these nanoparticle geometries. Importantly, the spatial resolution of this vibrational spectroscopy for electron microscopy is solely determined by the nanoparticle geometry and the plasmon mode volume. Our results highlight the promise of ELISR for simultaneous high-resolution electron microscopy with sub-diffraction-limited Raman spectroscopy, complementing advances in super-resolution microscopy, correlated light and electron microscopy, and vibrational electron energy loss spectroscopy.
In a pandemic era, rapid infectious disease diagnosis is essential. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) promises sensitive and specific diagnosis including rapid point-of-care detection and drug susceptibility testing. SERS utilizes inelastic light scattering arising from the interaction of incident photons with molecular vibrations, enhanced by orders of magnitude with resonant metallic or dielectric nanostructures. While SERS provides a spectral fingerprint of the sample, clinical translation is lagged due to challenges in consistency of spectral enhancement, complexity in spectral interpretation, insufficient specificity and sensitivity, and inefficient workflow from patient sample collection to spectral acquisition. Here, we highlight the recent, complementary advances that address these shortcomings, including (1) design of label-free SERS substrates and data processing algorithms that improve spectral signal and interpretability, essential for broad pathogen screening assays; (2) development of new capture and affinity agents, such as aptamers and polymers, critical for determining the presence or absence of particular pathogens; and (3) microfluidic and bioprinting platforms for efficient clinical sample processing. We also describe the development of low-cost, point-of-care, optical SERS hardware. Our paper focuses on SERS for viral and bacterial detection, in hopes of accelerating infectious disease diagnosis, monitoring, and vaccine development. With advances in SERS substrates, machine learning, and microfluidics and bioprinting, the specificity, sensitivity, and speed of SERS can be readily translated from laboratory bench to patient bedside, accelerating point-of-care diagnosis, personalized medicine, and precision health.
Metasurface lenses provide an ultrathin platform in which to focus light, but weak light–matter interactions limit their dynamic tunability. Here we design submicron-thick, ultrahigh quality factor (high-Q) metalenses that enable dynamic modulation of the focal length and intensity. Using full-field simulations, we show that quality factors exceeding 5000 can be generated by including subtle, periodic perturbations within the constituent Si nanoantennas. Such high-Q resonances enable lens modulation based on the nonlinear Kerr effect, with focal lengths varying from 4 to 6.5 μm and focal intensities decreasing by half as input intensity increases from 0.1 to 1 mW/μm2. We also show how multiple high-Q resonances can be embedded in the lens response through judicious placement of the perturbations. Our high-Q lens design, with quality factors 2 orders of magnitude higher than existing lens designs, provides a foundation for reconfigurable, multiplexed, and hyperspectral metasurface imaging platforms.
Defects in hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) exhibit high-brightness, room-temperature quantum emission, but their large spectral variability and unknown local structure challenge their technological utility. Here, we directly correlate hBN quantum emission with local strain using a combination of photoluminescence (PL), cathodoluminescence (CL) and nanobeam electron diffraction. Across 40 emitters, we observe zero phonon lines (ZPLs) in PL and CL ranging from 540 to 720 nm. CL mapping reveals that multiple defects and distinct defect species located within an optically diffraction-limited region can each contribute to the observed PL spectra. Local strain maps indicate that strain is not required to activate the emitters and is not solely responsible for the observed ZPL spectral range. Instead, at least four distinct defect classes are responsible for the observed emission range, and all four classes are stable upon both optical and electron illumination. Our results provide a foundation for future atomic-scale optical characterization of colour centres.
Chirality in Nature can be found across all length scales, from the subatomic to the galactic. At the molecular scale, the spatial dissymmetry in the atomic arrangements of pairs of mirror-image molecules, known as enantiomers, gives rise to fascinating and often critical differences in chemical and physical properties. With increasing hierarchical complexity, protein function, cell communication, and organism health rely on enantioselective interactions between molecules with selective handedness. For example, neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases have been linked to distortion of chiral-molecular structure. Moreover, d-amino acids have become increasingly recognized as potential biomarkers, necessitating comprehensive analytical methods for diagnosis that are capable of distinguishing l- from d-forms and quantifying trace concentrations of d-amino acids. Correspondingly, many pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals consist of chiral molecules that target particular enantioselective pathways. Yet, despite the importance of molecular chirality, it remains challenging to sense and to separate chiral compounds. Chiral-optical spectroscopies are designed to analyze the purity of chiral samples, but they are often insensitive to the trace enantiomeric excess that might be present in a patient sample, such as blood, urine, or sputum, or pharmaceutical product. Similarly, existing separation schemes to enable enantiopure solutions of chiral products are inefficient or costly. Consequently, most pharmaceuticals or agrochemicals are sold as racemic mixtures, with reduced efficacy and potential deleterious impacts. Recent advances in nanophotonics lay the foundation toward highly sensitive and efficient chiral detection and separation methods. In this Account, we highlight our group’s effort to leverage nanoscale chiral light–matter interactions to detect, characterize, and separate enantiomers, potentially down to the single molecule level. Notably, certain resonant nanostructures can significantly enhance circular dichroism for improved chiral sensing and spectroscopy as well as high-yield enantioselective photochemistry. We first describe how achiral metallic and dielectric nanostructures can be utilized to increase the local optical chirality density by engineering the coupling between electric and magnetic optical resonances. While plasmonic nanoparticles locally enhance the optical chirality density, high-index dielectric nanoparticles can enable large-volume and uniform-sign enhancements in the optical chirality density. By overlapping these electric and magnetic resonances, local chiral fields can be enhanced by several orders of magnitude. We show how these design rules can enable high-yield enantioselective photochemistry and project a 2000-fold improvement in the yield of a photoionization reaction. Next, we discuss how optical forces can enable selective manipulation and separation of enantiomers. We describe the design of low-power enantioselective optical tweezers with the ability to trap sub-10 nm dielectric particles. We also characterize their chiral-optical forces with high spatial and force resolution using combined optical and atomic force microscopy. These optical tweezers exhibit an enantioselective optical force contrast exceeding 10 pN, enabling selective attraction or repulsion of enantiomers based on the illumination polarization. Finally, we discuss future challenges and opportunities spanning fundamental research to technology translation. Disease detection in the clinic as well as pharmaceutical and agrochemical industrial applications requiring large-scale, high-throughput production will gain particular benefit from the simplicity and relative low cost that nanophotonic platforms promise.
Chiral-optical spectroscopies, such as circular dichroism, are critical in the biomedical, pharmaceutical, and agrochemical industries for revealing structural information about molecules and determining the purity of chemical samples. Emerging nanophotonic platforms have been shown to increase the intrinsically weak interaction between circularly polarized light and chiral molecules through the concentration of the local density of optical chirality, C. However, enhancements in C have been limited to infrared and visible frequencies, while the chiral absorption features of most small molecules are in the ultraviolet. Furthermore, achievable C enhancements in nanophotonic systems remain relatively low, especially when averaged across the sample volume. Here, we use full-field simulations to design a high quality factor (high Q) diamond metasurface that enhances C by over 3 orders of magnitude in the ultraviolet regime. The diamond nanostructures enable ultraviolet Mie resonances while a biperiodic disk lattice activates high Q resonances that significantly increase the electromagnetic field intensities. When a high Q electric dipole and magnetic dipole mode are spatially and spectrally overlapped, a Kerker-like condition emerges that enables uniform sign C enhancements that are locally as high as 1130-fold. Even when averaged across the unit cell and 40 nm away from the surface, enhancements in C exceed 100-fold. We show how the quality factor and C can be further tuned by adjusting the structural asymmetry via the diameter offset in the biperiodic lattice. Our results pave the way for ultrasensitive chiral spectroscopy and efficient light-mediated enantiomer separation.
Raman optical spectroscopy promises label-free bacterial detection, identification, and antibiotic susceptibility testing in a single step. However, achieving clinically relevant speeds and accuracies remains challenging due to weak Raman signal from bacterial cells and numerous bacterial species and phenotypes. Here we generate an extensive dataset of bacterial Raman spectra and apply deep learning approaches to accurately identify 30 common bacterial pathogens. Even on low signal-to-noise spectra, we achieve average isolate-level accuracies exceeding 82% and antibiotic treatment identification accuracies of 97.0±0.3%. We also show that this approach distinguishes between methicillin-resistant and -susceptible isolates of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA and MSSA) with 89±0.1% accuracy. We validate our results on clinical isolates from 50 patients. Using just 10 bacterial spectra from each patient isolate, we achieve treatment identification accuracies of 99.7%. Our approach has potential for culture-free pathogen identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing, and could be readily extended for diagnostics on blood, urine, and sputum.
Upconverting nanoparticles provide valuable benefits as optical probes for bioimaging and Förster resonant energy transfer (FRET) due to their high signal-to-noise ratio, photostability, and biocompatibility; yet, making nanoparticles small yields a significant decay in brightness due to increased surface quenching. Approaches to improve the brightness of UCNPs exist but often require increased nanoparticle size. Here we present a unique core–shell–shell nanoparticle architecture for small (sub-20 nm), bright upconversion with several key features: (1) maximal sensitizer concentration in the core for high near-infrared absorption, (2) efficient energy transfer between core and interior shell for strong emission, and (3) emitter localization near the nanoparticle surface for efficient FRET. This architecture consists of β-NaYbF4 (core) @NaY0.8–xErxGd0.2F4 (interior shell) @NaY0.8Gd0.2F4 (exterior shell), where sensitizer and emitter ions are partitioned into core and interior shell, respectively. Emitter concentration is varied (x = 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 80%) to investigate influence on single particle brightness, upconversion quantum yield, decay lifetimes, and FRET coupling. We compare these seven samples with the field-standard core–shell architecture of β-NaY0.58Gd0.2Yb0.2Er0.02F4 (core) @NaY0.8Gd0.2F4 (shell), with sensitizer and emitter ions codoped in the core. At a single particle level, the core–shell–shell design was up to 2-fold brighter than the standard core–shell design. Further, by coupling a fluorescent dye to the surface of the two different architectures, we demonstrated up to 8-fold improved emission enhancement with the core–shell–shell compared to the core–shell design. We show how, given proper consideration for emitter concentration, we can design a unique nanoparticle architecture to yield comparable or improved brightness and FRET coupling within a small volume.
Plasmon-coupled circular dichroism has emerged as a promising approach for ultrasensitive detection of biomolecular conformations through coupling between molecular chirality and surface plasmons. Chiral nanoparticle assemblies without chiral molecules present also have large optical activities. We apply single-particle circular differential scattering spectroscopy coupled with electron imaging and simulations to identify both structural chirality of plasmonic aggregates and plasmon-coupled circular dichroism induced by chiral proteins. We establish that both chiral aggregates and just a few proteins in interparticle gaps of achiral assemblies are responsible for the ensemble signal, but single nanoparticles do not contribute. We furthermore find that the protein plays two roles: It transfers chirality to both chiral and achiral plasmonic substrates, and it is also responsible for the chiral three-dimensional assembly of nanorods. Understanding these underlying factors paves the way toward sensing the chirality of single biomolecules.
The inherently weak nature of chiral light–matter interactions can be enhanced by orders of magnitude utilizing artificially-engineered nanophotonic structures. These structures enable high spatial concentration of electromagnetic fields with controlled helicity and chirality. However, the effective design and optimization of nanostructures requires defining physical observables which quantify the degree of electromagnetic helicity and chirality. In this perspective, we discuss optical helicity, optical chirality, and their related conservation laws, describing situations in which each provides the most meaningful physical information in free space and in the context of chiral light–matter interactions. First, an instructive comparison is drawn to the concepts of momentum, force, and energy in classical mechanics. In free space, optical helicity closely parallels momentum, whereas optical chirality parallels force. In the presence of macroscopic matter, the optical helicity finds its optimal physical application in the case of lossless, dual-symmetric media, while, in contrast, the optical chirality provides physically observable information in the presence of lossy, dispersive media. Finally, based on numerical simulations of a gold and silicon nanosphere, we discuss how metallic and dielectric nanostructures can generate chiral electromagnetic fields upon interaction with chiral light, offering guidelines for the rational design of nanostructure-enhanced electromagnetic chirality.
Time reversal symmetry stands as a fundamental restriction on the vast majority of optical systems and devices. The reciprocal nature of Maxwell’s equations in linear, time-invariant media adds complexity and scale to photonic diodes, isolators, circulators and also sets fundamental efficiency limits on optical energy conversion. Though many theoretical proposals and low frequency demonstrations of nonreciprocity exist, Faraday rotation remains the only known nonreciprocal mechanism that persists down to the atomic scale. Here, we present photon-spin-polarized stimulated Raman scattering as a new nonreciprocal optical phenomenon which has, in principle, no lower size limit. Exploiting this process, we numerically demonstrate nanoscale nonreciprocal transmission of free-space beams at near-infrared frequencies with a 250 nm thick silicon metasurface as well as a fully-subwavelength plasmonic gap nanoantenna. In revealing all-optical spin-splitting, our results provide a foundation for compact nonreciprocal communication and computing technologies, from nanoscale optical isolators and full-duplex nanoantennas to topologically-protected networks.
Plasmonic materials and metamaterials allow light to be controlled with nanoscale precision, enabling development of on-chip lasers, modulators, and detectors; novel medical therapeutics; efficient molecular sensors; sub-diffraction-limited optical microscopies; and improved photovoltaic and photocatalytic cells, among other extraordinary applications. However, a key challenge faced by the field is materials. Current plasmonic devices predominately employ noble metals, which exhibit high optical loss and limited tunability. Additionally, they pose challenges in standard semiconductor fabrication and integration, preventing full CMOS compatibility and wide-spread utilization. The goal of this special issue is to highlight novel materials that could replace traditional plasmonic metals. These materials not only address application-specific challenges but also reveal new physics and enable new functional devices that can readily integrated with existing technologies. The 28 papers of this feature issue focus on emerging materials and fabrication technologies for plasmonics, and encompass recent advances in both passive and active components as well as linear and nonlinear plasmonic devices.
Broadly tunable photonic crystals in the near- to mid-infrared region could find use in spectroscopy, non-invasive medical diagnosis, chemical and biological sensing, and military applications, but so far have not been widely realized. We report the fabrication and characterization of three-dimensional tunable photonic crystals composed of polymer nanolattices with an octahedron unit-cell geometry. These photonic crystals exhibit a strong peak in reflection in the mid-infrared that shifts substantially and reversibly with application of compressive uniaxial strain. A strain of ~40% results in a 2.2um wavelength shift in the pseudo-stop band, from 7.3um for the as-fabricated nanolattice to 5.1um when strained. We found a linear relationship between the overall compressive strain in the photonic crystal and the resulting stopband shift, with a ~50nm blueshift in the reflection peak position per percent increase in strain. These results suggest that architected nanolattices can serve as efficient three-dimensional mechanically tunable photonic crystals, providing a foundation for new opto-mechanical components and devices across infrared and possibly visible frequencies.
We investigate the effect of parity-time (PT) symmetric optical potentials on the radiation of achiral and chiral dipole sources. Two properties unique to PT-symmetric potentials are observed. First, the dipole can be tuned to behave as a strong optical emitter or absorber based on the non-Hermiticity parameter and the dipole location. Second, exceptional points give rise to new system resonances that lead to orders-of-magnitude enhancements in the dipolar emitted or absorbed power. Utilizing these properties, we show that enantiomers of chiral molecules near PT-symmetric metamaterials exhibit a 4.5-fold difference in their emitted power and decay rate. The results of this work could enable new atom-cavity interactions for quantum optics, as well as all-optical enantioselective separation.
Tomography has enabled the characterization of the Earth's interior, visualization of the inner workings of the human brain, and three-dimensional reconstruction of matter at the atomic scale. However, tomographic techniques that rely on optical excitation or detection are generally limited in their resolution by diffraction. Here, we introduce a tomographic technique - cathodoluminescence spectroscopic tomography - to probe optical properties in three dimensions with nanometre-scale spatial and spectral resolution. We first obtain two-dimensional cathodoluminescence maps of a three-dimensional nanostructure at various orientations. We then use the method of filtered back-projection to reconstruct the cathodoluminescence intensity at each wavelength. The resulting tomograms allow us to locate regions of efficient cathodoluminescence in three dimensions across visible and near-infrared wavelengths, with contributions from material luminescence and radiative decay of electromagnetic eigenmodes. The experimental signal can be further correlated with the radiative local density of optical states in particular regions of the reconstruction. We demonstrate how cathodoluminescence tomography can be used to achieve nanoscale three-dimensional visualization of light-matter interactions by reconstructing a three-dimensional metal-dielectric nanoresonator.
NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ nanoparticle upconverters are hindered by low quantum efficiencies arising in large part from the parity-forbidden nature of their optical transitions and the nonoptimal spatial separations between lanthanide ions. Here, we use pressure-induced lattice distortion to systematically modify both parameters. Although hexagonal-phase nanoparticles exhibit a monotonic decrease in upconversion emission, cubic-phase particles experience a nearly 2-fold increase in efficiency. In-situ X-ray diffraction indicates that these emission changes require only a 1% reduction in lattice constant. Our work highlights the intricate relationship between upconversion efficiency and lattice geometry and provides a promising approach to modifying the quantum efficiency of any lanthanide upconverter.
Non-Hermitian parity-time (PT)-symmetric optical potentials have led to a new class of unidirectional photonic components based on the spatially symmetric and balanced inclusion of loss and gain. While most proposed and implemented PT-symmetric optical devices have wavelength-scale dimensions, no physical constraints preclude development of subwavelength PT-symmetric components. We theoretically demonstrate a nanoscale PT-symmetric, all-optical plasmonic modulator capable of phase-controlled amplification and directional absorption. The modulator consists of two deeply subwavelength channels composed of either gain or loss dielectric material, embedded in a metallic cladding. When illuminating on-resonance by two counter-propagating plane waves, the aperture's total output can be modulated by changing the phase offset between the two waves. Modulation depths are greater than 10?dB, with output power varying from less than one half of the incident power to more than six times amplification. Off-resonance, the aperture possesses strong phase-controlled directionality with the output from one side varying from perfect absorption to strong scattering and transmission. The device design provides a platform for nanoscale all-optical modulators with gain while potentially enabling coherent perfect absorption and lasing in a single, compact structure.
The field of plasmonics has revolutionized the ability to control nanoscale light-matter interactions with applications ranging from high-efficiency photovoltaic modules to ultrasensitive biodetectors, electromagnetic cloaks, and subwavelength integrated photonic circuits. This article summarizes my group?s efforts to contribute to this burgeoning field, with emphasis on our research in quantum plasmonics and optical-frequency magnetism. First, we explore the plasmon resonances of individual nanoparticles as they transition from a classical to a quantum-influenced regime. We then utilize these results to directly monitor hydrogen absorption and desorption in individual palladium nanocrystals. Subsequently, using real-time manipulation of plasmonic particles, we investigate plasmonic coupling between pairs of particles separated by nanometer- and angstrom-scale gaps. For sufficiently small separations, we observe the effects of quantum tunneling between particles on their plasmonic resonances. Finally, using the properties of coupled metallic nanoparticles, we demonstrate the colloidal synthesis of an isotropic metafluid or "metamaterial paint" that exhibits a strong optical-frequency magnetic response and the potential for negative permeabilities and negative refractive indices.
The sun is the most abundant source of carbon-free sustainable energy, but current solar cells can only capture energy from a limited portion of the solar spectrum?specifically those photons with energies above the solar cell bandgap. Here, we explore a promising approach to reduce such transmission losses: placing an upconverter behind the solar cell. Upconverting materials can absorb low-energy photons and emit higher-energy photons back toward the solar cell, thereby improving the cell?s photocurrent. An ideal upconverter can increase the efficiency of an ideal solar cell from 30% to 44%. Existing upconverting materials offer much smaller improvements, though a boost in their upconverter efficiency could yield an absolute increase in solar cell efficiency of over 2% . We discuss several schemes to improve upconverter efficiency, focusing on use of nanophotonic and plasmonic antennas to increase the absorption and emission of upconverters. These schemes can in theory enable orders-of-magnitude improvement in upconverter efficiency, positioning the technology for significant commercial applications.
Upconversion, the conversion of photons from lower to higher energies, is a process that promises applications ranging from high-efficiency photovoltaic and photocatalytic cells to background-free bioimaging and therapeutic probes. Existing upconverting materials, however, remain too inefficient for viable implementation. In this Perspective, we describe the significant improvements in upconversion efficiency that can be achieved using plasmon resonances. As collective oscillations of free electrons, plasmon resonances can be used to enhance both the incident electromagnetic field intensity and the radiative emission rates. To date, this approach has shown upconversion enhancements up to 450x. We discuss both theoretical underpinnings and experimental demonstrations of plasmon-enhanced upconversion, examining the roles of upconverter quantum yield, plasmonic geometry, and plasmon spectral overlap. We also discuss nonoptical consequences of including metal nanostructures near upconverting emitters. The rapidly expanding field of plasmon-enhanced upconversion provides novel fundamental insight into nanoscale light?matter interactions while improving prospects for technological relevance.
Many energy- and information-storage processes rely on phase changes of nanomaterials in reactive environments. Compared to their bulk counterparts, nanostructured materials seem to exhibit faster charging and discharging kinetics, extended life cycles, and size-tunable thermodynamics. However, in ensemble studies of these materials, it is often difficult to discriminate between intrinsic size-dependent properties and effects due to sample size and shape dispersity. Here, we detect the phase transitions of individual palladium nanocrystals during hydrogen absorption and desorption, using in situ electron energy-loss spectroscopy in an environmental transmission electron microscope. In contrast to ensemble measurements, we find that palladium nanocrystals undergo sharp transitions between the alpha and beta phases, and that surface effects dictate the size dependence of the hydrogen absorption pressures. Our results provide a general framework for monitoring phase transitions in individual nanocrystals in a reactive environment and highlight the importance of single-particle approaches for the characterization of nanostructured materials.
We theoretically investigate the optical properties of parity-time (PT) symmetric three-dimensional metamaterials composed of strongly-coupled planar plasmonic waveguides. By tuning the loss-gain balance, we show how the initially isotropic material becomes both asymmetric and unidirectional. Investigation of the band structure near the material's exceptional point reveals several intriguing optical properties, including double negative refraction, Bloch power oscillations, unidirectional invisibility, and reflection and transmission coefficients that are simultaneously equal to or greater than unity. The highly tunable optical dispersion of PT-symmetric metamaterials provides a foundation for designing an entirely new class of three-dimensional bulk synthetic media, with applications ranging from lossless sub-diffraction-limited optical lenses to non-reciprocal nanophotonic devices.
Non-Hermitian Hamiltonians arising from parity-time PT-symmetric potentials have been extensively explored in optical systems, owing to their ability to generate asymmetric and even non-reciprocal light propagation. In this paper, we investigate such PT-potentials in plasmonic systems, demonstrating asymmetric optical propagation in deeply subwavelength waveguides. In particular, we investigate a five layer plasmonic waveguide composed of metallic layers separated by dielectric media containing either loss or gain in equal quantities. Through an analytic solution of Maxwell's equations, we identify the four lowest order modes of the waveguide, including two positive index modes and two negative index modes, and investigate their evolution with increasing but balanced gain and loss, K. Both the exact analytic approach and an approximate one based on Rayleigh-Schrodinger perturbation theory demonstrate eigenvalue merging and state coalescence with increasing K, unlike the familiar energy-level splitting observed in conventional coupled systems. The state coalescence always occurs between modes of opposite parity. Also, by changing the coupling between the waveguide layers, state coalescence can occur between modes with opposite refractive indices, resulting in the merging of a positive index mode with a negative index mode at the exceptional point. We use dispersion diagrams and field profiles to illustrate the asymmetric plasmon propagation properties with increasing K. We also show that at the system's exceptional point, the modal power varies quadratically along the waveguide. To our knowledge, this study represents the first spectral analysis of deeply sub wavelength PT-symmetric plasmonic and multi-modal photonic waveguides, and provides a foundation for designing novel asymmetric and unidirectional nanophotonic devices.
Advances in the field of metamaterials have enabled unprecedented control of lightmatter interactions. Metamaterial constituents support high-frequency electric and magnetic dipoles, which can be used as building blocks for new materials capable of negative refraction, electromagnetic cloaking, strong visible-frequency circular dichroism, and enhancing magnetic or chiral transitions in ions and molecules. While all metamaterials to date have existed in the solid-state, considerable interest has emerged in designing a colloidal metamaterial or ‘metafluid.’ Such metafluids would combine the advantages of solution-based processing with facile integration into conventional optical components. Here we demonstrate the colloidal synthesis of an isotropic metafluid that exhibits a strong magnetic response at visible frequencies. Protein-antibody interactions are used to direct the solution-phase self-assembly of discrete metamolecules comprised of silver nanoparticles tightly packed around a single dielectric core. The electric and magnetic response of individual metamolecules and the bulk metamaterial solution are directly probed with optical scattering and spectroscopy. This colloidal metafluid can be synthesized in large-quantity and high-quality, and may accelerate development of advanced nanophotonic and metamaterial devices.
We theoretically investigate light matter interactions for chiral molecules in the presence of non-chiral nanoantennas. Isotropic nanostructures supporting optical-frequency electric or magnetic dipoles are sufficient to locally enhance the excitation of a molecule's chiral polarizability and thus its circular dichroism spectrum. However, simultaneous electric and magnetic dipoles are necessary to achieve a net, spatially-averaged enhancement. Our contribution provides a theoretical framework to understand chiral light-matter interactions at the nanoscale and sets the necessary and sufficient conditions to enhance circular dichroism spectroscopy in the presence of nanoantennas. The results may lead to new, field-enhanced, chiral spectroscopic techniques.
A broadband metamaterial presenting negative indices across hundreds of nanometers in the visible and near-infrared spectral regimes is demonstrated theoretically, using transformation optics to design the metamaterial constituents. The approach begins with an infinite plasmonic waveguide that supports a broadband but dark (i.e, not easily optically accessed) negative index mode. Conformal mapping of this waveguide to a finite split-ring-resonator-type structure transforms this mode into a bright (i.e, efficiently excited) resonance composed of degenerate electric and magnetic dipoles. A periodic array of such resonators exhibits negative refractive indices at optical frequencies in multiple regions exceeding 200 nm in bandwidth. The metamaterial response is confirmed through simulations of plane-wave refraction through a metamaterial prism. These results illustrate the power of transformation optics for new metamaterial designs and provide a foundation for future broadband metamaterial devices.
Upconversion of sub-bandgap photons is a promising approach to exceed the Shockley-Queisser limit in solar technologies. Calculations have indicated that ideal, upconverter-enhanced cell efficiencies can exceed 44% for non-concentrated sunlight, but such improvements have yet to be observed experimentally. To explain this discrepancy, we develop a thermodynamic model of an upconverter-cell considering a highly realistic narrow-band, non-unity-quantum-yield upconverter. As expected, solar cell efficiencies increase with increasing upconverter bandwidth and quantum yield, with maximum efficiency enhancements found for near-infrared upconverter absorption bands. Our model indicates that existing bimolecular and lanthanide-based upconverters will not improve cell efficiencies more than 1%, consistent with recent experiments. However, our calculations show that these upconverters can significantly increase cell efficiencies from 28% to over 34% with improved quantum yield, despite their narrow bandwidths. Our results highlight the interplay of absorption and quantum-yield in upconversion, and provide a platform for optimizing future solar upconverter designs.
This News and Views describes results from the article "Tailoring and imaging the plasmonic local density of states in crystalline nanoprisms," by Sviatlana Viarbitskaya, Alexandre Teulle, Renaud Marty, Jadab Sharma, Christian Girard, Arnaud Arbouet, and Erik Dujardin, Nature Materials (2013). Their results describe how two-photon luminescence in metallic nanostructures provides a unique signature of the number of plasmonic modes per unit energy and volume, paving the way for more efficient plasmonic sources, detectors and sensors.
The plasmon resonances of two closely spaced metallic particles have enabled applica- tions including single-molecule sensing and spectroscopy, novel nanoantennas, molecular rulers, and nonlinear optical devices. In a classical electrodynamic context, the strength of such dimer plasmon resonances increases monotonically as the particle gap size de- creases. In contrast, a quantum mechanical framework predicts that electron tunneling will strongly diminish the dimer plasmon strength for sub-nanometer-scale separations. Here, we directly observe the plasmon resonances of coupled metallic nanoparticles as their gap size is reduced to atomic dimensions. Using the electron beam of a scanning transmis- sion electron microscope (STEM), we dynamically manipulate pairs of 10-nm-diameter spherical silver nanoparticles on a substrate, controlling their convergence and eventual coalescence into a single nanosphere. We simultaneously employ electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) to observe the dynamic plasmonic properties of these dimers before and after particle contact. As separations are reduced from 7 nm, the dominant dipolar peak exhibits a redshift consistent with classical calculations. However, gaps smaller than 0.5 nm cause this mode to exhibit a reduced intensity consistent with quantum theories that incorporate electron tunneling. As the particles overlap, the bonding dipolar mode disappears and is replaced by a dipolar charge transfer mode. Our dynamic imaging, manipulation, and spectroscopy of nanostructures enables therst full spectral mapping of dimer plasmon evolution, and may provide new avenues for in-situ nanoassembly and analysis in the quantum regime.
Optical trapping using focused laser beams has emerged as a powerful tool in the biological and physical sciences. However, scaling this technique to nanosized objects remains challenging due to the diffraction limit of light and the high power levels required for nanoscale trapping. In this paper, we propose plasmonic coaxial apertures as low-power optical traps for nanosized specimens. The illumination of a coaxial aperture with a linearly polarized plane wave generates a dual optical trapping potential well. We theoretically show that this potential can stably trap dielectric particles smaller than 10 nm in diameter while keeping the trapping power level below 20 mW. By tapering the thickness of the coaxial dielectric channel, trapping can be extended to sub-2-nm particles. The proposed structures may enable optical trapping and manipulation of dielectric particles ranging from single proteins to small molecules with sizes previously inaccessible.
Electrons and photons can coexist as a single entity called a surface plasmon — an elementary excitation found at the interface between a conductor and an insulator. Because of their hybrid electric and photonic nature, plasmons allow photons to be precisely controlled on the nanoscale. Plasmons are evident in the vivid hues of rose windows, which derive their color from small metallic nanoparticles embedded in the glass. They also provide the basis for color-changing biosensors (such as home pregnancy tests), photothermal cancer treatments, improved photovoltaic cell efficiencies, and nanoscale lasers. While surface plasmons were first identified nearly 55 years ago, many of their exciting applications are yet to come. This issue of MRS Bulletin reviews the progress and promise of plasmonics—from the characterization tools that have allowed nanometer-scale probing of plasmons to the new materials that may enable low-loss, active, and quantum plasmonics. Within reach are applications ranging from integrated plasmonic circuits for nanophotonic computation to plasmonic optical tweezers for manipulation of nano-sized particles and proteins.
Nanocrystal superlattices have emerged as a new platform for bottom-up metamaterial design, but their optical properties are largely unknown. Here, we investigate their emergent optical properties using a generalized semi-analytic, full-field solver based on rigorous coupled wave analysis. Attention is given to superlattices composed of noble metal and dielectric nanoparticles in unary and binary arrays. By varying the nanoparticle size, shape, separation, and lattice geometry, we demonstrate the broad tunability of superlattice optical properties. Superlattices composed of spherical or octahedral nanoparticles in cubic and AB2 arrays exhibit magnetic permeabilities tunable between 0.2 and 1.7, despite having non-magnetic constituents. The retrieved optical parameters are nearly polarization and angle-independent over a broad range of incident angles. Accordingly, nanocrystal superlattices behave as isotropic bulk metamaterials. Their tunable permittivities, permeabilities, and emergent magnetism may enable new, bottom-up metamaterials and negative index materials at visible frequencies.
Collective electron excitations in metals, called plasmons, can play an important role in second harmonic generation of light. This Viewpoint describes results from the article "Nonlinear plasmon-photon interaction resolved by k-space spectroscopy," by Nicolai B. Grosse, Jan Heckmann, and Ulrike Woggonthe, Physical Review Letters (2012)
The plasmon resonances of metallic nanoparticles have received considerable attention for their applications in nanophotonics, biology, sensing, spectroscopy and solar energy harvesting. Although thoroughly characterized for spheres larger than ten nanometres in diameter, the plasmonic properties of particles in the quantum size regime have been historically difficult to describe owing to weak optical scattering, metal–ligand interactions, and inhomogeneity in ensemble measurements. Such difficulties have precluded probing and controlling the plasmonic properties of quantum-sized particles in many natural and engineered processes, notably catalysis. Here we investigate the plasmon resonances of individual ligand-free silver nanoparticles using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope (TEM) imaging and monochromated scanning TEM electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS). This technique allows direct correlation between a particle’s geometry and its plasmon resonance. As the nanoparticle diameter decreases from 20 nanometres to less than two nanometres, the plasmon resonance shifts to higher energy by 0.5 electronvolts, a substantial deviation from classical predictions. We present an analytical quantum mechanical model that describes this shift due to a change in particle permittivity. Our results highlight the quantum plasmonic properties of small metallic nanospheres, with direct application to understanding and exploiting catalytically active and biologically relevant nanoparticles.
Reducing reflection and transmission losses in photovoltaic devices is essential for realizing highly efficient power conversion. Here, we theoretically investigate arrays of radial junction silicon wires to determine the optimal geometry for maximized light absorption. Using a generalized rigorous coupled wave analysis, we calculate the scattering spectra of arrays of varying wire radii, length, and lattice filling factors. Near unity absorption, far exceeding that of conventional thin film devices, is calculated for a square array of 20 µm long wires with radii of 200 nm and a filling fraction of 30%. These results suggest a potentially cost-effective route toward high efficiency solar cells.
Upconversion of sub-bandgap photons can increase the maximum efficiency of a single-junction solar cell from 30% to over 44%. However, upconverting materials often have small absorption cross-sections and poor radiative recombination efficiencies that limit their utility in solar applications. Here, we show that the efficiency of upconversion can be substantially enhanced with a suitably designed plasmonic nanostructure. The structure consists of a spherical nanocrescent composed of an upconverter-doped dielectric core and a crescent-shaped metallic shell. Using numerical techniques, we calculate a greater than 10-fold absorption enhancement for a broad range of sub-bandgap wavelengths throughout the entire upconverting core. Further, this nanocrescent enables a 100-fold increase in above-bandgap power emission toward the solar cell. Our results provide a framework for achieving low-power solar upconversion, potentially enabling a single-junction solar cell with an efficiency exceeding the Shockley–Queisser limit.
Loss is one of the most substantial impediments to integrated plasmonics. In this paper, we present a theoretical analysis of active cylindrical plasmon slot waveguides, including their modal characteristics, gain spectra, and lasing threshold. Particular attention is given to two classes of waveguide geometries composed of various core/channel/cladding materials: a dielectric/dielectric/metal (DDM) waveguide and a metal/dielectric/metal (MDM) waveguide. Using empirically determined optical constants, we systematically study the dispersion, propagation length, threshold gain, modal gain, and confinement factor of these slot structures. For DDM waveguides, we show that introducing the gain in the channel rather than the core is of paramount importance for reduced threshold gain and increased modal gain. Confinement factor enhancement is even more pronounced in MDM waveguides, where modal gain can exceed threshold gain by 10× to 100× across visible and near-infrared frequencies. By carefully tuning the core/channel relative dimensions along with the lasing frequency, we show that threshold gain as low as 500 inverse cm is achievable in cylindrical plasmonic devices with overall diameters less than 200 nm. Our results indicate the promise of plasmonic slot structures for low-loss optical networking, and provide a roadmap for the design of optimized nanoscale plasmonic laser cavities.
Assemblies of strongly coupled plasmonic nanoparticles can support highly tunable electric and magnetic resonances in the visible spectrum. In this letter, we theoretically demonstrate Fano-like interference effects between the fields radiated by the electric and magnetic modes of symmetric nanoparticle trimers. Breaking the symmetry of the trimer system leads to a strong interaction between the modes. The near and far field electromagnetic properties of the broken symmetry trimer are tunable across a large spectral range. We exploit this Fano-like effect to demonstrate spatial and temporal control of the localized electromagnetic hotspots in the plasmonic trimer.
Upconverting materials can be used to increase the energy conversion efﬁciency of a solar cell. Such materials convert low-energy transmitted photons to higher-energy photons that can be absorbed by the cell, substantially reducing the spectral mismatch between the cell and the solar spectrum. Previously, the performance enhancements achievable with an ideal upconverter-solar cell system were theoretically investigated. Here, we perform a comprehensive analysis to determine the effects of non-ideal cell and upconverter systems, accounting for non-ideal absorption and radiative recombination. We also allow for realistic nonradiative relaxation within the upconverter. The system is modeled using a detailed balance approach, with the upconverter treated as a series connection of two small-bandgap solar cells and a large-bandgap light emitting diode. We demonstrate that signiﬁcant improvements in efﬁciency are possible even for nonconcentrated light, as long as the upconverter includes a small nonradiative relaxation pathway. Furthermore, we show that the existence of a nonradiative relaxation event in the upconverter is necessary for improved power conversion when cell absorption efﬁciency is low. Our results indicate that the efﬁciencies of both conventional-Si and thin ﬁlm photovoltaic cells can be substantially improved with upconverting materials, even including non-idealities.
In this work, H2 absorption and desorption in faceted, crystalline Au/Pd core/shell nanocrystals and their interaction with a SiOx/Si support were studied at the single-particle level. Dark-field microscopy was used to monitor the changing optical properties of these Au/Pd nanoparticles (NPs) upon exposure to H2 as reversible H2 uptake from the Pd shell proceeded. Analysis of the heterogeneous ensemble of NPs revealed the H2 uptake trajectory of each nanocrystal to be shape-dependent. Differences in particle uptake trajectories were observed for individual particles with different shapes, faceting, and Pd shell thickness. In addition to palladium hydride formation, the single-particle trajectories were able to decipher specific instances where palladium silicide formation and Au/Pd interdiffusion occurred and helped us determine that this was more frequently seen in those particles within an ensemble having thicker Pd shells. This noninvasive, plasmonic-based direct sensing technique shows the importance of single-particle experiments in catalytically active systems and provides a foundation for studying more complex catalytic processes in inhomogeneous NP systems.
Silicon-based photonic devices dissipate substantially less power and provide a significantly greater information bandwidth than electronic components. Unfortunately, large-scale integration of photonic devices has been limited by their large, wavelength-scale size and the weak optical response of Si. Surface plasmons may overcome these two limitations. Combining the high localization of electronic waves with the propagation properties of optical waves, plasmons can achieve extremely small mode wavelengths and large local electromagnetic field intensities. Si-based plasmonics has the potential to not only reduce the size of photonic components to deeply-subwavelength scales, but also to enhance the emission, detection, and manipulation of optical signals in Si. In this article, we discuss recent advances in Si-based plasmonics, including subwavelength interconnects, modulators, and emission sources. From scales spanning slab waveguides to single nanocrystals, we show that Si-based plasmonics can enable optical functionality competitive in size and speed with contemporary electronic components.
We report a method for filtering white light into individual colors using metal−insulator−metal resonators. The resonators are designed to support photonic modes at visible frequencies, and dispersion relations are developed for realistic experimental configurations. Experimental results indicate that passive Ag/Si3N4/Au resonators exhibit color filtering across the entire visible spectrum. Full field electromagnetic simulations were performed on active resonators for which the resonator length was varied from 1−3 μm and the output slit depth was systematically varied throughout the thickness of the dielectric layer. These resonators are shown to filter colors based on interference between the optical modes within the dielectric layer. By careful design of the output coupling, the resonator can selectively couple to intensity maxima of different photonic modes and, as a result, preferentially select any of the primary colors. We also illustrate how refractive index modulation in metal−insulator−metal resonators can yield actively tunable color filters. Simulations using lithium niobate as the dielectric layer and the top and bottom Ag layers as electrodes indicate that the output color can be tuned over the visible spectrum with an applied field.
Realization of chip-based all-optical and optoelectronic computational networks will require ultracompact Si-compatible modulators, ideally comprising dimensions, materials, and functionality similar to electronic complementary metal−oxide−semiconductor (CMOS) components. Here we demonstrate such a modulator, based on field-effect modulation of plasmon waveguide modes in a MOS geometry. Near-infrared transmission between an optical source and drain is controlled by a gate voltage that drives the MOS into accumulation. Using the gate oxide as an optical channel, electro-optic modulation is achieved in device volumes of half of a cubic wavelength with femtojoule switching energies and the potential for gigahertz modulation frequencies.
We present a theoretical analysis of planar plasmonic waveguides that support propagation of positive and negative index modes. Particular attention is given to the modes sustained by metal-insulator-metal (MIM), insulator-metal-insulator (IMI), and insulator-insulator-metal (IIM) geometries at visible and near-infrared frequencies. We find that all three plasmonic structures are characterized by negative indices over a finite range of visible frequencies, with figures of merit approaching 20. Moreover, using finite-difference time-domain simulations, we demonstrate that visible-wavelength light propagating from free space into these waveguides can exhibit negative refraction. Refractive index and figure-of-merit calculations are presented for Ag/GaP and Ag/Si3N4 - based structures with waveguide core dimensions ranging from 5 to 50 nm and excitation wavelengths ranging from 350 nm to 850 nm. Our results provide the design criteria for realization of broadband, visible-frequency negative index materials and transformation-based optical elements for two-dimensional guided waves. These geometries can serve as basic elements of three-dimensional negative-index metamaterials.
A diffusion bonding method has been developed that enables layer transfer of single crystal lithium niobate thin films to silicon substrates. A silver film was deposited onto both the silicon and lithium niobate surfaces prior to bonding, and upon heating, a diffusion bond was formed. Transmission electron microscopy confirms the interface evolution via diffusion bonding which combines interfacial diffusion, power law creep, and growth of (111) silver grains to replace the as-bonded interface by a single polycrystalline silver film. The transferred film composition was the same as bulk lithium niobate.
A nanoscale gap between two metal surfaces can confine propagating surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) to very small dimensions, but this geometry makes it inherently difficult to image SPP propagation at high resolution. We demonstrate the near-field probing of these SPPs, propagating within a 50 nm thick Si3N4 waveguide with Ag cladding layers for frequencies ranging from the blue to the near-infrared. Using near-field SPP interferometry, we determine the wave vector, showing that the wavelength is shortened to values as small as 156 nm for a free-space wavelength of 532 nm.
Nanofabricated photonic materials offer opportunities for crafting the propagation and dispersion of light in matter. We demonstrate an experimental realization of a two-dimensional negative-index material in the blue-green region of the visible spectrum, substantiated by direct geometric visualization of negative refraction. Negative indices were achieved with the use of an ultrathin Au-Si3N4-Ag waveguide sustaining a surface plasmon polariton mode with antiparallel group and phase velocities. All-angle negative refraction was observed at the interface between this bimetal waveguide and a conventional Ag-Si3N4-Ag slot waveguide. The results may enable the development of practical negative-index optical designs in the visible regime.
We report experimental realization of subwavelength slot waveguides that exhibit both micrometer-range propagation and high spatial confinement of light. Attention is given to rectangular waveguides with a Si3N4 core and Ag cladding; core thicknesses of 50−100 nm and widths of 250 nm − 10 μm are explored. Propagation lengths of 5λ are achieved with light confined to lateral and transverse dimensions of λ/5 and λ/2, respectively. This unique combination of light localization and propagation is achieved via interacting surface plasmons, which produce short modal wavelengths and strong field confinement at each metal/dielectric interface.
We present a numerical analysis of surface plasmon waveguides exhibiting both long-range propagation and spatial confinement of light with lateral dimensions of less than 10% of the free-space wavelength. Attention is given to characterizing the dispersion relations, wavelength-dependent propagation, and energy density decay in two-dimensional Ag∕SiO2∕Ag structures with waveguide thicknesses ranging from 12 nm to 250 nm. As in conventional planar insulator-metal-insulator (IMI) surface plasmon waveguides, analytic dispersion results indicate a splitting of plasmon modes—corresponding to symmetric and antisymmetric electric field distributions—as SiO2 core thickness is decreased below 100 nm. However, unlike IMI structures, surface plasmon momentum of the symmetric mode does not always exceed photon momentum, with thicker films (d∼50 nm) achieving effective indices as low as n=0.15. In addition, antisymmetric mode dispersion exhibits a cutoff for films thinner than d=20 nm, terminating at least 0.25 eV below resonance. From visible to near infrared wavelengths, plasmon propagation exceeds tens of microns with fields confined to within 20 nm of the structure. As the SiO2 core thickness is increased, propagation distances also increase with localization remaining constant. Conventional waveguiding modes of the structure are not observed until the core thickness approaches 100 nm. At such thicknesses, both transverse magnetic and transverse electric modes can be observed. Interestingly, for nonpropagating modes (i.e., modes where propagation does not exceed the micron scale), considerable field enhancement in the waveguide core is observed, rivaling the intensities reported in resonantly excited metallic nanoparticle waveguides.
A numerical analysis of surface plasmon dispersion, propagation, and localization on smooth lossy films is presented. Particular attention is given to determining wavelength-dependent behavior of thin Ag slab waveguides embedded in a symmetric SiO2 environment. Rather than considering Ag as a damped free electron gas, the metal is defined by the experimentally determined optical constants of Johnson and Christy and Palik. As in free electron gas models, analytic dispersion results indicate a splitting of plasmon modes—corresponding to symmetric and antisymmetric field distributions—as film thickness is decreased below 50 nm. However, unlike free electron gas models, the surface plasmon wave vector remains finite at resonance with the antisymmetric-field plasmon converging to a pure photon mode for very thin films. In addition, allowed excitation modes are found to exist between the bound and radiative branches of the dispersion curve. The propagation characteristics of all modes are determined, and for thin films (depending upon electric field symmetry), propagation distances range from microns to centimeters in the near infrared. Propagation distances are correlated with both the field decay (skin depth) and energy density distribution in the metal and surrounding dielectric. While the energy density of most long-range surface plasmons exhibits a broad spatial extent with limited confinement in the waveguide, it is found that high-field confinement does not necessarily limit propagation. In fact, enhanced propagation is observed for silver films at ultraviolet wavelengths despite strong field localization in the metal. The surface plasmon characteristics described in this paper provide a numerical springboard for engineering nanoscale metal plasmon waveguides, and the results may provide a new avenue for integrated optoelectronic applications.
Since the development of the light microscope in the 16th century, optical device sizeand performance have been limited by diffraction.Optoelectronic devices of today aremuch bigger than the smallest electronic devices for this reason.Achieving control oflight–material interactions for photonic device applications at the nanoscale requiresstructures that guide electromagnetic energy with subwavelength-scale modeconfinement.By converting the optical mode into nonradiating surface plasmons,electromagnetic energy can be guided in structures with lateral dimensions of less than10% of the free-space wavelength.A variety of methods—including electron-beamlithography and self-assembly—have been used to construct both particle and planarplasmon waveguides.Recent experimental studies have confirmed the strongly coupledcollective plasmonic modes of metallic nanostructures.In plasmon waveguidesconsisting of closely spaced silver rods, electromagnetic energy transport over distancesof 0.5m has been observed.Moreover, numerical simulations suggest the possibility ofmulti-centimeter plasmon propagation in thin metallic stripes.Thus, there appears to beno fundamental scaling limit to the size and density of photonic devices, and ongoingwork is aimed at identifying important device performance criteria in the subwavelengthsize regime.Ultimately, it may be possible to design an entire class of subwavelength-scale optoelectronic components (waveguides, sources, detectors, modulators) thatcould form the building blocks of an optical device technology—a technology scalable to molecular dimensions, with potential imaging, spectroscopy, and interconnectionapplications in computing, communications, and chemical/biological detection.
By the mid-17th century, numerous scientists—notably including Hooke and Gallileo—had developed transparent ground lenses and applied them in the construction of compound optical microscopes. This development revolutionized the contemporary understanding of the natural world by, for example, enabling the imaging of blood cells and microbes. Ever since this now bygone era of fantastic development of optics principles and instrumentation, the size and performance of photonic devices has been largely limited by diffraction. Photonic devices of today are generally composed of dielectric materials with modest dielectric constants, and are much bigger than the smallest electronic devices (e.g., transistors in silicon integrated circuits) for this reason.