Room-temperature sub-diffraction-limited plasmon laser by total internal reflection

Nat Mater. 2011 Feb;10(2):110-3. doi: 10.1038/nmat2919. Epub 2010 Dec 19.


Plasmon lasers are a new class of coherent optical amplifiers that generate and sustain light well below its diffraction limit. Their intense, coherent and confined optical fields can enhance significantly light-matter interactions and bring fundamentally new capabilities to bio-sensing, data storage, photolithography and optical communications. However, metallic plasmon laser cavities generally exhibit both high metal and radiation losses, limiting the operation of plasmon lasers to cryogenic temperatures, where sufficient gain can be attained. Here, we present a room-temperature semiconductor sub-diffraction-limited laser by adopting total internal reflection of surface plasmons to mitigate the radiation loss, while using hybrid semiconductor-insulator-metal nanosquares for strong confinement with low metal loss. High cavity quality factors, approaching 100, along with strong λ/20 mode confinement, lead to enhancements of spontaneous emission rate by up to 18-fold. By controlling the structural geometry we reduce the number of cavity modes to achieve single-mode lasing.