Channel plasmon subwavelength waveguide components including interferometers and ring resonators

Nature. 2006 Mar 23;440(7083):508-11. doi: 10.1038/nature04594.


Photonic components are superior to electronic ones in terms of operational bandwidth, but the diffraction limit of light poses a significant challenge to the miniaturization and high-density integration of optical circuits. The main approach to circumvent this problem is to exploit the hybrid nature of surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs), which are light waves coupled to free electron oscillations in a metal that can be laterally confined below the diffraction limit using subwavelength metal structures. However, the simultaneous realization of strong confinement and a propagation loss sufficiently low for practical applications has long been out of reach. Channel SPP modes--channel plasmon polaritons (CPPs)--are electromagnetic waves that are bound to and propagate along the bottom of V-shaped grooves milled in a metal film. They are expected to exhibit useful subwavelength confinement, relatively low propagation loss, single-mode operation and efficient transmission around sharp bends. Our previous experiments showed that CPPs do exist and that they propagate over tens of micrometres along straight subwavelength grooves. Here we report the design, fabrication and characterization of CPP-based subwavelength waveguide components operating at telecom wavelengths: Y-splitters, Mach-Zehnder interferometers and waveguide-ring resonators. We demonstrate that CPP guides can indeed be used for large-angle bending and splitting of radiation, thereby enabling the realization of ultracompact plasmonic components and paving the way for a new class of integrated optical circuits.