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Manipulating polaritons at the extreme scale in van der Waals materials

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 22 July 2022

This article has been updated

Abstract

Polaritons, originating from the interactions between photons and material excitations, have attracted attention because of their strong field compression and deeply subdiffractional scales. For practical applications, it is crucial to manipulate polaritons efficiently, but doing so has remained challenging because of the relatively poor tunability of traditional polaritonic media. Fortunately, in the past decade, polaritons hosted by van der Waals (vdW) materials have allowed new opportunities to tackle this difficulty. We review the state of the art in the manipulation of polaritons at the extreme scale in vdW materials. Benefiting from the large and expanding catalogue of vdW materials and associated architectures and techniques, more accessible manipulation strategies are expected, not only offering control of light at the nanoscale with new degrees of freedom, but also offering insight into nanophotonics, meta-optics, topological physics and quantum materials.

Key points

  • Van der Waals materials and relevant techniques make it possible to engineer polaritons conveniently and effectively at the deep-subwavelength scale.

  • The inherent properties of polaritonic materials play a dominant role in polariton behaviours, because of the part-light, part-matter nature of polaritons.

  • Owing to tight electromagnetic field compression, polaritons are highly sensitive to various physical stimuli.

  • The dispersion relations of polaritons indicate potential tuning pathways, such as dielectric environment.

  • Combining individual polariton modes, regardless of their types, can greatly enrich the toolbox for polariton manipulation.

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Fig. 1: Schematic summary of manipulation strategies for polaritons in van der Waals platforms.
Fig. 2: Manipulating polaritons by directly modifying van der Waals materials.
Fig. 3: Geometry-based approaches to tailoring polaritons in van der Waals materials.
Fig. 4: Polaritonic responses to physical stimuli.
Fig. 5: Dielectric environment control for the modification and functionalization of polaritons.
Fig. 6: Interactions of polaritons in van der Waals platforms.

Change history

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC, CE170100039 and DE220100154) and Shenzhen Nanshan District Pilotage Team Program (LHTD20170006). P.L. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 62075070) and the Innovation Fund of WNLO. P.A.-G. acknowledges support from the European Research Council under starting grant no. 715496, 2DNANOPTICA and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation grant no. PID2019-111156GB-I00). J.D.C. acknowledges support from the Office of Naval Research, grant no. N000142212035.

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Glossary

Isofrequency contour

(IFC). A slice of the polariton dispersion surface by a plane of constant frequency in momentum space.

Drude weight

A useful quantity to estimate the strength of the Drude response at different conditions; also known as charge stiffness.

Ghost PhPs

A class of surface polaritons with the ability to possess the characteristics of propagating and evanescent waves simultaneously.

Meron

A kind of vortex-type non-trivial topological spin texture, whose topological charge (±1/2) is half of that in a skyrmion (±1).

Rabi splitting

Energy separation at the avoided crossing in scattering spectra, as the signature of the strong coupling regime of light–matter interactions.

Canalization

Polariton canalization is a propagation mode of polaritons realized in the canalization regime, resulting in highly oriented and nearly diffraction-free transport.

Landau damping

A polariton decay process resulting from the generation of an electron−hole pair by a quantized plasmon.

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Wu, Y., Duan, J., Ma, W. et al. Manipulating polaritons at the extreme scale in van der Waals materials. Nat Rev Phys 4, 578–594 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-022-00472-0

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