Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Extraordinary optical transmission through sub-wavelength hole arrays


The desire to use and control photons in a manner analogous to the control of electrons in solids has inspired great interest in such topics as the localization of light, microcavity quantum electrodynamics and near-field optics1,2,3,4,5,6. A fundamental constraint in manipulating light is the extremely low transmittivity of apertures smaller than the wavelength of the incident photon. While exploring the optical properties of submicrometre cylindrical cavities in metallic films, we have found that arrays of such holes display highly unusual zero-order transmission spectra (where the incident and detected light are collinear) at wavelengths larger than the array period, beyond which no diffraction occurs. In particular, sharp peaks in transmission are observed at wavelengths as large as ten times the diameter of the cylinders. At these maxima the transmission efficiency can exceed unity (when normalized to the area of the holes), which is orders of magnitude greater than predicted by standard aperture theory. Our experiments provide evidence that these unusual optical properties are due to the coupling of light with plasmons — electronic excitations — on the surface of the periodically patterned metal film. Measurements of transmission as a function of the incident light angle result in a photonic band diagram. These findings may find application in novel photonic devices.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1
Figure 2: Effects of parameters on zero-order transmission spectra.
Figure 3: Zero-order transmission spectra as a function of incident angle of the light.
Figure 4: Dispersion curves (solid circles) along the [10] direction of the array.


  1. John, S. Localization of light. Phys. Today 32 (May (1991)).

  2. Yablonovitch, E. & Leung, K. M. Hope for photonic bandgaps. Nature 351, 278 (1991).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Dalichaouch, R., Armstrong, J. P., Schultz, S., Platzman, P. M. & McCall, S. L. Microwave localization by two-dimensional random scattering. Nature 354, 53–55 (1991).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. J. D. Joannopoulos, Meade R. D. & Winn, J. N. Photonic Crystals (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, (1995)).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Haroche, S. & Kleppner, D. Cavity quantum electrodynamics. Phys. Today 24 (January (1989)).

  6. Betzig, E. & Trautman, J. K. Near-field optics: Microscopy, spectroscopy, and surface modification beyond the diffraction limit. Science 257, 189–194 (1992).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Bethe, H. A. Theory of diffraction by small holes. Phys. Rev. 66, 163–182 (1944).

    Article  ADS  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  8. Born, M. & Wolf, E. Principles of Optics(Pergamon, Oxford, (1980)).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Ritchie, R. H., Arakawa, E. T., Cowan, J. J. & Hamm, R. N. Surface-plasmon resonance effect in grating diffraction. Phys. Rev. Lett. 21, 1530–1533 (1968).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Raether, H. Surface Plasmons(Springer, Berlin, (1988)).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Chen, Y. J., Koteles, E. S., Seymour, R. J., Sonek, G. J. & Ballantyne, J. M. Surface plasmons on gratings: coupling in the minigap regions. Solid State Commun. 46, 95–99 (1983).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Kitson, S. C., Barnes, W. L. & Sambles, J. R. Full photonic band gap for surface modes in the visible. Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 2670–2673 (1996).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Watts, R. A., Harris, J. B., Hibbins, A. P., Preist, T. W. & Sambles, J. R. Optical excitations of surface plasmon polaritons on 90 and 60 bi-gratings. J. Mod. Opt. 43, 1351–1360 (1996).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Derrick, G. H., McPhedran, R. C., Maystre, D. & Neviere, M. Crossed gratings: a theory and its applications. Appl. Phys. 18, 39–52 (1979).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Lochbihler, H. Surface polaritons on gold-wire gratings. Phys. Rev. B 50, 4795–4801 (1994).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Ulrich, R. Far-infrared properties of metallic mesh and its complimentary structure. Infrared Phys. 7, 37–55 (1967).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Larsen, T. Asurvey of the theory of wire grids. I.R.E. Trans. Microwave Theory Techniques 10, 191–201 (1962).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank S. Kishida, G. Bugmann and J. Giordmaine for their encouragement, and R. Linke, R. McDonald, M. Treacy, J. Chadi and C. Tsai for discussions. We also thank G. Lewen, G. Seidler, A. Krishnan, A. Schertel, A. Dziesiaty and H. Zimmermann for assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ebbesen, T., Lezec, H., Ghaemi, H. et al. Extraordinary optical transmission through sub-wavelength hole arrays. Nature 391, 667–669 (1998).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing