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Damping pathways of mid-infrared plasmons in graphene nanostructures

Abstract

Plasmon is the quantum of the collective oscillation of electrons. How plasmon loses its energy (or damping) plays a pivotal role in plasmonic science and technology. Graphene plasmon is of particular interest, partly because of its potentially low damping rate. However, to date, damping pathways have not been clearly unravelled experimentally. Here, we demonstrate mid-infrared (4–15 µm) plasmons in graphene nanostructures with dimensions as small as 50 nm (with a mode area of 1 × 10−3 µm2). We also reveal damping channels via graphene intrinsic optical phonons and scattering from the edges. Plasmon lifetimes of 20 fs or less are observed when damping via the emission of graphene optical phonons is allowed. Furthermore, surface polar phonons in the SiO2 substrate under graphene nanostructures lead to a significantly modified plasmon dispersion and damping, in contrast to the case of a nonpolar diamond-like-carbon substrate. Our study paves the way for applications of graphene in plasmonic waveguides, modulators and detectors from sub-terahertz to mid-infrared regimes.

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Figure 1: Schematics of the experiment.
Figure 2: Plasmons in graphene nanoribbons on DLC.
Figure 3: Plasmons in graphene nanoribbons on SiO2.
Figure 4: Origins of plasmon damping.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank B. Ek, J. Bucchignano and S. (Jay) Chey for technical assistance, and V. Perebeinos and Z. Li of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and T.F. Heinz of Columbia University for discussions. F.X. thanks C. Gmachl of Princeton University and Y. Yao of Harvard University for help in the planning stage of the project. T.L. and F.G. acknowledge the hospitality of KITP, supported in part by the National Science Foundation (grant no. NSF PHY11-25915). T.L. also acknowledges partial support from NRI-INDEX, and F.G. is also supported by the Spanish MICINN (FIS2008-00124, CONSOLIDER CSD2007-00010) and ERC grant 290846. 

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Contributions

F.X. and H.Y. initiated the project and conceived the experiments. W.Z., Y.W., H.Y. and F.X. fabricated the devices. H.Y. performed the measurements and data analysis. T.L. and F.G. provided modelling and the theoretical foundation. M.F. participated in setting up the experimental apparatus. X.L. grew the CVD graphene. H.Y. and T.L. co-wrote the manuscript with input from F.X., and P.A. provided suggestions throughout the project. All authors commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hugen Yan, Phaedon Avouris or Fengnian Xia.

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Yan, H., Low, T., Zhu, W. et al. Damping pathways of mid-infrared plasmons in graphene nanostructures. Nature Photon 7, 394–399 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2013.57

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