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Femtosecond optical polarization switching using a cadmium oxide-based perfect absorber


Ultrafast control of the polarization state of light may enable a plethora of applications in optics, chemistry and biology. However, conventional polarizing elements, such as polarizers and waveplates, are either static or possess only gigahertz switching speeds. Here, with the aid of high-mobility indium-doped cadmium oxide (CdO) as the gateway plasmonic material, we realize a high-quality factor Berreman-type perfect absorber at a wavelength of 2.08 μm. On sub-bandgap optical pumping, the perfect absorption resonance strongly redshifts because of the transient increase of the ensemble-averaged effective electron mass of CdO, which leads to an absolute change in the p-polarized reflectance from 1.0 to 86.3%. By combining the exceedingly high modulation depth with the polarization selectivity of the perfect absorber, we experimentally demonstrate a reflective polarizer with a polarization extinction ratio of 91 that can be switched on and off within 800 fs.

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Figure 1: Schematic of a switchable reflective polarizer.
Figure 2: Static optical properties of the CdO-based perfect absorber.
Figure 3: Ultrafast amplitude modulation via intraband resonant pumping of the CdO-based perfect absorber.
Figure 4: Ultrafast polarization switching.


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The authors thank S. Liu and P.Q. Liu of Sandia National Laboratories and D. de Ceglia of the National Research Council for discussions. This work was supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering and performed, in part, at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, an Office of Science User Facility operated for the US DOE Office of Science. Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the US DOE National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. K.K., E.S. and J.-P.M. also acknowledge support of this work by National Science Foundation grant CHE-150794 and Army Research Office grant W911NF-16-1-0037.

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Y.Y. and I.B. conceived the idea; Y.Y. designed the structure and conducted all the optical measurements; K.K., E.S. and J.-P.M. grew and characterized the CdO film; S.C. and T.S.L. calculated the dispersion relations and provided insight on the perfect absorption; all the authors analysed the data. Y.Y. wrote the manuscript with input from all the authors. I.B., M.B.S. and J.-P.M. supervised the project.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yuanmu Yang or Igal Brener.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Yang, Y., Kelley, K., Sachet, E. et al. Femtosecond optical polarization switching using a cadmium oxide-based perfect absorber. Nature Photon 11, 390–395 (2017).

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