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Plasmonic dynamics measured with frequency-comb-referenced phase spectroscopy


The strong confinement of surface plasmons’ optical fields at metal surfaces makes them highly sensitive to the structural shape and refractive index change of target biological1,2, chemical3,4 or atomic species5. This has made surface plasmon resonance a widely applicable sensing technique. Plasmonic metrology is primarily based on the spectral shift of the scattering intensity spectrum. Although broadband phase spectra are known to provide richer information on target samples as opposed to intensity spectra, direct acquisition of broadband phase spectra in plasmonics has been made difficult by the lack of highly stabilized light sources. Here, we demonstrate that frequency-comb-referenced phase spectroscopy provides high speed, high resolution, and high linearity with respect to plasmonic rulers, with direct traceability to a time standard. As a demonstration, we measure the 1.94 Å dynamic motion of a pair of nanoholes with a resolution of 1.67 pm. The interaction through the propagation of the plasmonic field is enhanced by a factor of 155 compared to the physical sample length. Our realization of a fast and robust plasmonic ruler with picometre resolution makes it possible to obtain high-precision plasmonic phase spectroscopy for in-depth analysis of the dynamics of samples in nanoscopic volumes.

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Fig. 1: FCR plasmonic phase spectroscopy.
Fig. 2: Plasmonic sample design, development, and characterization.
Fig. 3: FCR differential plasmonic phase spectroscopy.
Fig. 4: Precision measurement of the sub-nanometre dynamic motion of a plasmonic sample.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This work was financially supported by an NRF Fellowship (NRF-NRFF2015-02) from the Singapore National Research Foundation, an AcRF Tier 1 Grant (RG180/160) from the Singapore Ministry of Education. S.K. acknowledges financial support from the Creative Materials Discovery Program (NRF-2017M3D1A1039287) and the Basic Research Lab Program (NRF-2018R1A4A1025623) through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning. D.K. acknowledges financial support from the Max Planck POSTECH/KOREA Research Initiative Program (2016K1A4A4A01922028).

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Authors and Affiliations



The project was planned and overseen by S.K. and Y.-J.K. Plasmonic samples were designed, prepared and characterized by S.C., D.K. and S.K. Frequency-comb-referenced plasmonic spectroscopic experiments were performed by N.D.A., B.J.C and Y.-J.K. Data were analysed by N.D.A., B.J.C., S.K. and Y.-J.K. All authors contributed to the manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Seungchul Kim or Young-Jin Kim.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Anh, N.D., Chun, B.J., Choi, S. et al. Plasmonic dynamics measured with frequency-comb-referenced phase spectroscopy. Nature Phys 15, 132–137 (2019).

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