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A silicon-based electrical source of surface plasmon polaritons


After decades of process scaling driven by Moore’s law, the silicon microelectronics world is now defined by length scales that are many times smaller than the dimensions of typical micro-optical components. This size mismatch poses an important challenge for those working to integrate photonics with complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) electronics technology. One promising solution is to fabricate optical systems at metal/dielectric interfaces, where electromagnetic modes called surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) offer unique opportunities to confine and control light at length scales below 100 nm (refs 1, 2). Research groups working in the rapidly developing field of plasmonics have now demonstrated many passive components3,4 that suggest the potential of SPPs for applications in sensing5 and optical communication6. Recently, active plasmonic devices based on III–V materials7,8,9 and organic materials10 have been reported. An electrical source of SPPs was recently demonstrated using organic semiconductors by Koller and colleagues11. Here we show that a silicon-based electrical source for SPPs can be fabricated using established low-temperature microtechnology processes that are compatible with back-end CMOS technology.

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Figure 1: Schematic of the device and SEM images.
Figure 2: Electroluminescence properties of Si nanocrystals in Al2O3.
Figure 3: Simulated SPP detection efficiency.
Figure 4: Electrical generation of SPPs.


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This work is part of the research programme of the FOM and was financially supported by NWO. It was also supported by the NanoNed technology programme and the Smart Mix Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Dutch Technology Foundation STW.

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I.B. prepared samples through the membrane-etch process under the supervision of J.S. R.V.A.v.L. and R.J.W. completed the sample fabrication and together carried out the experiments and analysis under the supervision of A.P. The manuscript was prepared by R.J.W. with input from all co-authors.

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Correspondence to R. J. Walters.

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Walters, R., van Loon, R., Brunets, I. et al. A silicon-based electrical source of surface plasmon polaritons. Nature Mater 9, 21–25 (2010).

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