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Plasmonically tailored micropotentials for ultracold atoms


Plasmonic near-fields can be structured with sub-optical wavelength resolution. This offers promising scenarios for trapping, guiding and manipulating cold atoms in plasmonically tailored dipole potentials, which could enable strong coupling between a single atom and a single plasmonic excitation. Here, we report on the interaction of Bose–Einstein condensates with the optical near-field above plasmonic micro- and submicrometre structures. At these structures, surface plasmon polaritons are excited by a laser in the Kretschmann configuration, giving rise to resonantly enhanced surface plasmons. We introduce a technique to measure the strength of optical near-fields by observing the reflection of cold atoms from the surface. In particular, the dependence of electromagnetic field enhancement on structure size is investigated. Furthermore, we show that the near-field induced potential landscape can be tailored to sub-micrometre dimensions by demonstrating matter–wave diffraction from a grating of plasmonic wires.

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Figure 1: Fabricated gold structures and excitation of surface plasmons.
Figure 2: Potential barriers on plain surfaces.
Figure 3: Potential barriers on plasmonic micro- and submicrometre structures.
Figure 4: Dependence of maximum modulation depth on structure width.
Figure 5: Matter–wave diffraction from plasmonic nanostructures.


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H.B., C.S., S.S. and C.Z. acknowledge financial support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within the European Collaborative Research program of the European Science Foundation. C.S. was supported by Carl-Zeiss Stiftung Baden-Württemberg. S.S. and C.S. benefited from an exchange of ideas with the European Science Foundation Research Network of New Trends and Applications of the Casimir Effects. M.F. acknowledges financial support by the European Social Fund and by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg. M.F. would like to thank C. Schäfer for discussions on SU-8 and R. Löffler for exposing the mask used in the optical lithography step.

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S.S. designed and supervised the experiment, analysed the data and wrote the paper. H.B. and C.S. measured the data. M.F. fabricated the plasmonic structures and wrote Supplementary Section A. D.K. provided the nanofabrication lab. C.Z. provided the quantum optics lab. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

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Correspondence to Sebastian Slama.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Stehle, C., Bender, H., Zimmermann, C. et al. Plasmonically tailored micropotentials for ultracold atoms. Nature Photon 5, 494–498 (2011).

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