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Atomically-Smooth Gold Crystals Help to Compress Light for Nanophotonic Applications
Highly compressed mid-infrared optical waves in a thin dielectric crystal on monocrystalline gold substrate investigated for the first time using a high-resolution scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope. KAIST researchers and their collaborators at home and abroad have successfully demonstrated a new platform for guiding the compressed light waves in very thin van der Waals crystals. Their method to guide the mid-infrared light with minimal loss will provide a breakthrough for the practical applications of ultra-thin dielectric crystals in next-generation optoelectronic devices based on strong light-matter interactions at the nanoscale. Phonon-polaritons are collective oscillations of ions in polar dielectrics coupled to electromagnetic waves of light, whose electromagnetic field is much more compressed compared to the light wavelength. Recently, it was demonstrated that the phonon-polaritons in thin van der Waals crystals can be compressed even further when the material is placed on top of a highly conductive metal. In such a configuration, charges in the polaritonic crystal are “reflected” in the metal, and their coupling with light results in a new type of polariton waves called the image phonon-polaritons. Highly compressed image modes provide strong light-matter interactions, but are very sensitive to the substrate roughness, which hinders their practical application. Challenged by these limitations, four research groups combined their efforts to develop a unique experimental platform using advanced fabrication and measurement methods. Their findings were published in Science Advances on July 13. A KAIST research team led by Professor Min Seok Jang from the School of Electrical Engineering used a highly sensitive scanning near-field optical microscope (SNOM) to directly measure the optical fields of the hyperbolic image phonon-polaritons (HIP) propagating in a 63 nm-thick slab of hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) on a monocrystalline gold substrate, showing the mid-infrared light waves in dielectric crystal compressed by a hundred times. Professor Jang and a research professor in his group, Sergey Menabde, successfully obtained direct images of HIP waves propagating for many wavelengths, and detected a signal from the ultra-compressed high-order HIP in a regular h-BN crystals for the first time. They showed that the phonon-polaritons in van der Waals crystals can be significantly more compressed without sacrificing their lifetime. This became possible due to the atomically-smooth surfaces of the home-grown gold crystals used as a substrate for the h-BN. Practically zero surface scattering and extremely small ohmic loss in gold at mid-infrared frequencies provide a low-loss environment for the HIP propagation. The HIP mode probed by the researchers was 2.4 times more compressed and yet exhibited a similar lifetime compared to the phonon-polaritons with a low-loss dielectric substrate, resulting in a twice higher figure of merit in terms of the normalized propagation length. The ultra-smooth monocrystalline gold flakes used in the experiment were chemically grown by the team of Professor N. Asger Mortensen from the Center for Nano Optics at the University of Southern Denmark. Mid-infrared spectrum is particularly important for sensing applications since many important organic molecules have absorption lines in the mid-infrared. However, a large number of molecules is required by the conventional detection methods for successful operation, whereas the ultra-compressed phonon-polariton fields can provide strong light-matter interactions at the microscopic level, thus significantly improving the detection limit down to a single molecule. The long lifetime of the HIP on monocrystalline gold will further improve the detection performance. Furthermore, the study conducted by Professor Jang and the team demonstrated the striking similarity between the HIP and the image graphene plasmons. Both image modes possess significantly more confined electromagnetic field, yet their lifetime remains unaffected by the shorter polariton wavelength. This observation provides a broader perspective on image polaritons in general, and highlights their superiority in terms of the nanolight waveguiding compared to the conventional low-dimensional polaritons in van der Waals crystals on a dielectric substrate. Professor Jang said, “Our research demonstrated the advantages of image polaritons, and especially the image phonon-polaritons. These optical modes can be used in the future optoelectronic devices where both the low-loss propagation and the strong light-matter interaction are necessary. I hope that our results will pave the way for the realization of more efficient nanophotonic devices such as metasurfaces, optical switches, sensors, and other applications operating at infrared frequencies.” This research was funded by the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). The Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and The Villum Foundation, Denmark, also supported the work. Figure. Nano-tip is used for the ultra-high-resolution imaging of the image phonon-polaritons in hBN launched by the gold crystal edge. Publication: Menabde, S. G., et al. (2022) Near-field probing of image phonon-polaritons in hexagonal boron nitride on gold crystals. Science Advances 8, Article ID: eabn0627. Available online at https://science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abn0627. Profile: Min Seok Jang, MS, PhD Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://janglab.org/ Min Seok Jang Research Group School of Electrical Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr/en/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea
A New Strategy for Active Metasurface Design Provides a Full 360° Phase Tunable Metasurface
The new strategy displays an unprecedented upper limit of dynamic phase modulation with no significant variations in optical amplitude An international team of researchers led by Professor Min Seok Jang of KAIST and Professor Victor W. Brar of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated a widely applicable methodology enabling a full 360° active phase modulation for metasurfaces while maintaining significant levels of uniform light amplitude. This strategy can be fundamentally applied to any spectral region with any structures and resonances that fit the bill. Metasurfaces are optical components with specialized functionalities indispensable for real-life applications ranging from LIDAR and spectroscopy to futuristic technologies such as invisibility cloaks and holograms. They are known for their compact and micro/nano-sized nature, which enables them to be integrated into electronic computerized systems with sizes that are ever decreasing as predicted by Moore’s law. In order to allow for such innovations, metasurfaces must be capable of manipulating the impinging light, doing so by manipulating either the light’s amplitude or phase (or both) and emitting it back out. However, dynamically modulating the phase with the full circle range has been a notoriously difficult task, with very few works managing to do so by sacrificing a substantial amount of amplitude control. Challenged by these limitations, the team proposed a general methodology that enables metasurfaces to implement a dynamic phase modulation with the complete 360° phase range, all the while uniformly maintaining significant levels of amplitude. The underlying reason for the difficulty achieving such a feat is that there is a fundamental trade-off regarding dynamically controlling the optical phase of light. Metasurfaces generally perform such a function through optical resonances, an excitation of electrons inside the metasurface structure that harmonically oscillate together with the incident light. In order to be able to modulate through the entire range of 0-360°, the optical resonance frequency (the center of the spectrum) must be tuned by a large amount while the linewidth (the width of the spectrum) is kept to a minimum. However, to electrically tune the optical resonance frequency of the metasurface on demand, there needs to be a controllable influx and outflux of electrons into the metasurface and this inevitably leads to a larger linewidth of the aforementioned optical resonance. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the phase and the amplitude of optical resonances are closely correlated in a complex, non-linear fashion, making it very difficult to hold substantial control over the amplitude while changing the phase. The team’s work circumvented both problems by using two optical resonances, each with specifically designated properties. One resonance provides the decoupling between the phase and amplitude so that the phase is able to be tuned while significant and uniform levels of amplitude are maintained, as well as providing a narrow linewidth. The other resonance provides the capability of being sufficiently tuned to a large degree so that the complete full circle range of phase modulation is achievable. The quintessence of the work is then to combine the different properties of the two resonances through a phenomenon called avoided crossing, so that the interactions between the two resonances lead to an amalgamation of the desired traits that achieves and even surpasses the full 360° phase modulation with uniform amplitude. Professor Jang said, “Our research proposes a new methodology in dynamic phase modulation that breaks through the conventional limits and trade-offs, while being broadly applicable in diverse types of metasurfaces. We hope that this idea helps researchers implement and realize many key applications of metasurfaces, such as LIDAR and holograms, so that the nanophotonics industry keeps growing and provides a brighter technological future.” The research paper authored by Ju Young Kim and Juho Park, et al., and titled "Full 2π Tunable Phase Modulation Using Avoided Crossing of Resonances" was published in Nature Communications on April 19. The research was funded by the Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics. -Publication:Ju Young Kim, Juho Park, Gregory R. Holdman, Jacob T. Heiden, Shinho Kim, Victor W. Brar, and Min Seok Jang, “Full 2π Tunable Phase Modulation Using Avoided Crossing ofResonances” Nature Communications on April 19 (2022). doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29721-7 -ProfileProfessor Min Seok JangSchool of Electrical EngineeringKAIST
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