Article | Published:

Compact nanomechanical plasmonic phase modulators

Nature Photonics volume 9, pages 267273 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Highly confined optical energy in plasmonic devices is advancing miniaturization in photonics. However, for mode sizes approaching ≈10 nm, the energy increasingly shifts into the metal, raising losses and hindering active phase modulation. Here, we propose a nanoelectromechanical phase-modulation principle exploiting the extraordinarily strong dependence of the phase velocity of metal–insulator–metal gap plasmons on dynamically variable gap size. We experimentally demonstrate a 23-μm-long non-resonant modulator having a 1.5π rad range, with 1.7 dB excess loss at 780 nm. Analysis shows that by simultaneously decreasing the gap, length and width, an ultracompact-footprint π rad phase modulator can be realized. This is achieved without incurring the extra loss expected for plasmons confined in a decreasing gap, because the increasing phase-modulation strength from a narrowing gap offsets rising propagation losses. Such small, high-density electrically controllable components may find applications in optical switch fabrics and reconfigurable plasmonic optics.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge support from the Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grant Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (award nos. 70NANB14H259 and 70NANB14H030) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (grant no. FA9550-09-1-0698). The authors thank A. Agrawal and H. Lezec for their technical suggestions and insightful comments on the manuscript, G. Holland and A. Band for their technical help with the experimental set-up and P. Lubik for his programming assistance. Computational support from the Department of Defense High Performance Computation Modernization project is acknowledged. This work was performed, in part, at the Center for Nanoscale Materials, a US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences User Facility (contract no. DE-AC02-06CH11357).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA

    • B. S. Dennis
    •  & G. Blumberg
  2. Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80918, USA

    • M. I. Haftel
  3. Argonne National Laboratory, Center for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne, Illinois 60439, USA

    • D. A. Czaplewski
    •  & D. Lopez
  4. Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, USA

    • V. A. Aksyuk

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Contributions

B.S.D. developed the fabrication process, designed and fabricated the modulators, performed the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. M.I.H. developed an analytical model and wrote the manuscript. G.B. developed the concept, designed the experiment and wrote the manuscript. D.A.C and D.L. developed the fabrication process. V.A.A. developed the concept, designed the experiment, performed simulations, developed the fabrication process, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to V. A. Aksyuk.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2015.40

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