Progress in electron-beam spectroscopies has recently enabled the study of optical excitations with combined space, energy and time resolution in the nanometre, millielectronvolt and femtosecond domain, thus providing unique access into nanophotonic structures and their detailed optical responses. These techniques rely on ~1–300 keV electron beams focused at the sample down to sub-nanometre spots, temporally compressed in wavepackets a few femtoseconds long, and in some cases controlled by ultrafast light pulses. The electrons undergo energy losses and gains (also giving rise to cathodoluminescence light emission), which are recorded to reveal the optical landscape along the beam path. This Review portraits these advances, with a focus on coherent excitations, emphasizing the increasing level of control over the electron wavefunctions and ensuing applications in the study and technological use of optically resonant modes and polaritons in nanoparticles, 2D materials and engineered nanostructures.
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We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of S. Meuret and T. Coenen in preparing this Review. Future visions described in this paper partly originate from presentations and a panel discussion session at the workshop ‘Electron Beam Spectroscopy for Nanophotonics (EBSN)’ held in Sitges, Spain, during 25–27 October 2017. We thank the workshop participants for providing their insights; in particular the discussion panellists J. Etheridge, I. Kaminer, C. Ropers and J. Verbeeck. The Dutch part of this work is part of the research programme of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO); the French part has received support from the French state through the National Agency for Research under the programme of future investment EQUIPEX, and TEMPOS-CHROMATEM with the reference ANR-10-EQPX-50; the Spanish part is supported by MINECO (MAT2017-88492-R and SEV2015-0522), the Catalan CERCA programme and Fundació Privada Cellex. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreements 695343 and 789104).
A.P. is co-founder and co-owner of Delmic BV, a company that produces commercial cathodoluminescence systems.
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Polman, A., Kociak, M. & García de Abajo, F.J. Electron-beam spectroscopy for nanophotonics. Nat. Mater. 18, 1158–1171 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0409-1
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