Letter | Published:

Electrically driven optical antennas

Nature Photonics volume 9, pages 582586 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Unlike radiowave antennas, so far optical nanoantennas cannot be fed by electrical generators. Instead, they are driven by light1 or indirectly via excited discrete states in active materials2,3 in their vicinity. Here we demonstrate the direct electrical driving of an in-plane optical antenna by the broadband quantum-shot noise of electrons tunnelling across its feed gap. The spectrum of the emitted photons is determined by the antenna geometry and can be tuned via the applied voltage. Moreover, the direction and polarization of the light emission are controlled by the antenna resonance, which also improves the external quantum efficiency by up to two orders of magnitude. The one-material planar design offers facile integration of electrical and optical circuits and thus represents a new paradigm for interfacing electrons and photons at the nanometre scale, for example for on-chip wireless communication and highly configurable electrically driven subwavelength photon sources.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Großmann for experimental support as well as A. Baratoff and R. Berndt for insightful discussions. The VW-Foundation (Grant I/84036) and the German Research Foundation (HE 5618/4-1) are acknowledged for financial support.

Author information

Author notes

    • Johannes Kern
    •  & René Kullock

    These authors contributed equally to this work

Affiliations

  1. Nano-Optics and Bio-Photonics Group, Department of Experimental Physics 5 and Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen Research Center for Complex Material Systems, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany

    • Johannes Kern
    • , René Kullock
    •  & Bert Hecht
  2. Ultrafast Solid-State Quantum Optics and Nanophotonics Group, Physikalisches Institut, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Wilhelm-Klemm-Strasse 10, 48149 Münster, Germany

    • Johannes Kern
  3. Optical Sciences Group, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, Enschede 7500 AE, The Netherlands

    • Jord Prangsma
  4. Technische Physik and Wilhelm-Conrad-Röntgen-Research Center for Complex Material Systems, University of Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany

    • Monika Emmerling
    •  & Martin Kamp

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Contributions

J.K., R.K., J.P. and B.H. conceived the experiment. J.K., R.K. and J.P. designed the antennas. J.K. and M.E. designed and fabricated the electrode structure. R.K. grew the gold flakes and transferred them. J.K. and R.K. milled the structures and performed the particle pushing. M.K. supervised the FIB fabrication. R.K. programmed experiment-control and data-acquisition software. J.K. and R.K. constructed the experiment, performed the measurements and analysed the data. J.K. performed the finite-difference time-domain simulations. J.K., R.K., J.P. and B.H. co-wrote the manuscript with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bert Hecht.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2015.141

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