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Flatland Photonics: Circumventing Diffraction with Planar Plasmonic Architectures


Dionne, Jennifer Anne (2009) Flatland Photonics: Circumventing Diffraction with Planar Plasmonic Architectures. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/3DCC-CZ57.


On subwavelength scales, photon-matter interactions are limited by diffraction. The diffraction limit restricts the size of optical devices and the resolution of conventional microscopes to wavelength-scale dimensions, severely hampering our ability to control and probe subwavelength-scale optical phenomena. Circumventing diffraction is now a principle focus of integrated nanophotonics. Surface plasmons provide a particularly promising approach to sub-diffraction-limited photonics. Surface plasmons are hybrid electron-photon modes confined to the interface between conductors and transparent materials. 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. Through their unique dispersion, surface plasmons provide access to an enormous phase space of refractive indices and propagation constants that can be readily tuned with material or geometry.

In this thesis, we explore both the theory and applications of dispersion in planar plasmonic architectures. Particular attention is given to the modes of metallic core and plasmon slot waveguides, which can span positive, near-zero, and even negative indices. We demonstrate how such basic plasmonic geometries can be used to develop a suite of passive and active plasmonic components, including subwavelength waveguides, color filters, negative index metamaterials, and optical MOS field effect modulators. Positive index modes are probed by near- and far-field techniques, revealing plasmon wavelengths as small as one-tenth of the excitation wavelength. Negative index modes are characterized through direct visualization of negative refraction. By fabricating prisms comprised of gold, silicon nitride, and silver multilayers, we achieve the first experimental demonstration of a negative index material at visible frequencies, with potential applications for sub-diffraction-limited microscopy and electromagnetic cloaking. We exploit this tunability of complex plasmon mode indices to create a compact metal-oxide-Si (MOS) field effect plasmonic modulator (or plasMOStor). By transforming the MOS gate oxide into an optical channel, amplitude modulation depths of 11.2 dB are achieved in device volumes as small as one one-fifth of a cubic wavelength. Our results indicate the accessibility of tunable refractive indices over a wide frequency band, facilitating design of a new materials class with extraordinary optical properties and applications.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Diffraction; metamaterials; negative refraction; surface plasmons; waveguides
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Applied Physics
Awards:Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize, 2009.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Atwater, Harry Albert
Thesis Committee:
  • Atwater, Harry Albert (chair)
  • Antonsson, Erik K.
  • Preskill, John P.
  • Vahala, Kerry J.
  • Painter, Oskar J.
Defense Date:10 October 2008
Non-Caltech Author Email:jdionne (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10302008-115303
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 2. adapted for Chapter 4. adapted for Chapter 5. adapted for Chapter 6. adapted for Chapter 6.
Dionne, Jennifer Anne0000-0001-5287-4357
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:5256
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:12 Nov 2008
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:12

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