Letter | Published:

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

Nature volume 487, pages 8285 (05 July 2012) | Download Citation


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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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.

Author information


  1. Department of Physics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • Z. Fei
    • , A. S. Rodin
    • , G. O. Andreev
    • , A. S. McLeod
    • , M. Wagner
    • , M. M. Fogler
    •  & D. N. Basov
  2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA

    • W. Bao
    • , Z. Zhao
    •  & C. N. Lau
  3. Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • W. Bao
  4. Department of Physics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

    • L. M. Zhang
  5. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • M. Thiemens
  6. Department of Physics, California State University, San Marcos, California 92096, USA

    • G. Dominguez
  7. Graphene Research Centre and Department of Physics, National University of Singapore, 117542, Singapore

    • A. H. Castro Neto
  8. Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Center for Nanoscience, 85714 Garching, Germany

    • F. Keilmann


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

Competing interests

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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. N. Basov.

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    Supplementary information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data 1-5, Supplementary Figure 1 and additional references.

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