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Gate-tuning of graphene plasmons revealed by infrared nano-imaging


Surface plasmons are collective oscillations of electrons in metals or semiconductors that enable confinement and control of electromagnetic energy at subwavelength scales1,2,3,4,5. Rapid progress in plasmonics has largely relied on advances in device nano-fabrication5,6,7, whereas less attention has been paid to the tunable properties of plasmonic media. One such medium—graphene—is amenable to convenient tuning of its electronic and optical properties by varying the applied voltage8,9,10,11. Here, using infrared nano-imaging, we show that common graphene/SiO2/Si back-gated structures support propagating surface plasmons. The wavelength of graphene plasmons is of the order of 200 nanometres at technologically relevant infrared frequencies, and they can propagate several times this distance. We have succeeded in altering both the amplitude and the wavelength of these plasmons by varying the gate voltage. Using plasmon interferometry, we investigated losses in graphene by exploring real-space profiles of plasmon standing waves formed between the tip of our nano-probe and the edges of the samples. Plasmon dissipation quantified through this analysis is linked to the exotic electrodynamics of graphene10. Standard plasmonic figures of merit of our tunable graphene devices surpass those of common metal-based structures.

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Figure 1: Infrared nano-imaging experiment and results.
Figure 2: Spatial variation of the electric field and near-field amplitude at the graphene edge.
Figure 3: Electrostatically tunable plasmons in back-gated graphene.


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We acknowledge support from AFOSR, ONR and DARPA. The analysis of plasmonic losses and many-body effects was supported by DOE-BES grant DE-FG02-00ER45799. W.B., Z.Z. and C.N.L. were supported by NSF DMR/1106358, ONR N00014-09-1-0724, ONR/DMEA H94003-10-2-1003 and FENA Focus Center. G.D. and M.T. were supported by NASA. M.M.F. was supported by UCOP and NSF PHY11-25915. A.H.C.N. acknowledges NRF-CRP grant R-144-000-295-281. L.M.Z was supported by DOE grant no. DE-FG02-08ER46512. M.W. thanks the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for financial support. F.K. was supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through the Cluster of Excellence Munich Centre for Advanced Photonics.

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All authors were involved in designing the research, performing the research, and writing the paper.

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Correspondence to D. N. Basov.

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F.K. is co-founder of Neaspec, producer of the scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscope apparatus used in this study. The other authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Fei, Z., Rodin, A., Andreev, G. et al. Gate-tuning of graphene plasmons revealed by infrared nano-imaging. Nature 487, 82–85 (2012).

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