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Lasing action in strongly coupled plasmonic nanocavity arrays


Periodic dielectric structures are typically integrated with a planar waveguide to create photonic band-edge modes for feedback in one-dimensional distributed feedback lasers and two-dimensional photonic-crystal lasers1,2,3,4. Although photonic band-edge lasers are widely used in optics and biological applications, drawbacks include low modulation speeds and diffraction-limited mode confinement5,6. In contrast, plasmonic nanolasers can support ultrafast dynamics and ultrasmall mode volumes7,8,9. However, because of the large momentum mismatch between their nanolocalized lasing fields and free-space light, they suffer from large radiative losses and lack beam directionality. Here, we report lasing action from band-edge lattice plasmons in arrays of plasmonic nanocavities in a homogeneous dielectric environment. We find that optically pumped, two-dimensional arrays of plasmonic Au or Ag nanoparticles surrounded by an organic gain medium show directional beam emission (divergence angle <1.5° and linewidth <1.3 nm) characteristic of lasing action in the far-field, and behave as arrays of nanoscale light sources in the near-field. Using a semi-quantum electromagnetic approach to simulate the active optical responses, we show that lasing is achieved through stimulated energy transfer from the gain to the band-edge lattice plasmons in the deep subwavelength vicinity of the individual nanoparticles. Using femtosecond-transient absorption spectroscopy, we verified that lattice plasmons in plasmonic nanoparticle arrays could reach a 200-fold enhancement of the spontaneous emission rate of the dye because of their large local density of optical states.

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Figure 1: Plasmonic nanocavity array laser.
Figure 2: Coherent lasing action in strongly coupled plasmonic nanoparticle arrays.
Figure 3: Nanoscale energy transfer responsible for lasing action.
Figure 4: Optical response of nanoparticle arrays surrounded by gain depends strongly on the materials of nanoparticles.
Figure 5: Ultrafast decay rates of excited-state molecules indicate enhanced spontaneous emission rates by the Purcell effect.


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This work was supported by the NSF-MRSEC program at the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at Northwestern University (DMR-1121262; W.Z., J.Y.S., M.D., G.C.S., T.W.O.), the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) Faculty Booster Award (J.Y.S., C.H.K., D.T.C.) and the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DE-SC0004752; M.D., G.C.S.). Transient absorption measurement and data analysis were supported as part of the ANSER Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the DOE (DE-SC0001059; D.T.C., M.R.W.).

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W.Z. and T.W.O. conceived the idea of a new surface-emitting laser based on strongly coupled plasmonic nanocavity arrays. W.Z. fabricated the devices, carried out the angle-resolved optical measurement, and performed FDTD numerical simulations of the passive optical responses of the devices. M.D. developed the numerical methods to simulate the active optical responses of the device. J.Y.S., C.H.K. and W.Z. carried out lasing and transient absorption measurements, and C.H.K. and D.T.C. set up the transient absorption measurements. T.W.O., G.C.S., D.T.C. and M.R.W. guided the experimental and theoretical investigations. W.Z. and T.W.O. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Teri W. Odom.

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Zhou, W., Dridi, M., Suh, J. et al. Lasing action in strongly coupled plasmonic nanocavity arrays. Nature Nanotech 8, 506–511 (2013).

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