Slow guided surface plasmons at telecom frequencies


The phenomenon of slow light is interesting not only from a fundamental physics standpoint, but also because it introduces the possibility of new applications in telecommunications1. For a practical slow-light device, the important features are bandwidth, range of wavelength tunability and size, rather than the absolute slowdown factor achieved2. Slow light can be achieved in three main ways: through quantum interference effects3,4,5,6,7,8, which can slow the speed of light down to several metres per second, albeit within a very narrow bandwidth; by using photonic crystals9, which are able to slow light over large bandwidths but with much smaller slowdown factors10,11; and by using stimulated Brillouin or Raman scattering12,13. Surface plasmon polaritons have the advantage that they can overcome the diffraction limit of light in a microchip-sized device14,15,16,17. Increases in the propagation lengths of surface plasmon polaritons18 and the feasibility of all-optical wavelength tunability19 have been reported. Here we report the observation of slow, femtosecond surface-plasmon-polariton wavepackets. We show that a highly compact (55 µm length) plasmonic structure is able to achieve an effective slowdown factor of two over a 4 THz bandwidth. These results will increase the scope of photonic devices based on surface plasmon polaritons.

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Figure 1: Optical microscope image of the structure under investigation.
Figure 2: Schematic of the experimental set-up.
Figure 3: Optical tracking of an SPP wavepacket.
Figure 4: Measured and calculated group indices for different SPP excitation frequencies.
Figure 5: SPP spectral signature at different positions along the structure.


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This work was made possible by the facilities of the Amsterdam NanoCenter. The work is part of the research programme of the Stichting voor Fundamenteel Onderzoek der Materie (FOM), which is financially supported by the Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO). Support of the EC-funded project PhOREMOST (FP6/2003/IST/2-511616) is gratefully acknowledged. This work was also partially supported by NANONED, a nanotechnology program of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The authors thank Rob Engelen for useful discussions.

Author information

M.S. carried out the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. L.K. conceived the experiments, helped with the analysis and co-wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to L. Kuipers.

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Sandtke, M., Kuipers, L. Slow guided surface plasmons at telecom frequencies. Nature Photon 1, 573–576 (2007).

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