Significant performance enhancement in photoconductive terahertz optoelectronics by incorporating plasmonic contact electrodes

Nat Commun. 2013;4:1622. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2638.

Abstract

Even though the terahertz spectrum is well suited for chemical identification, material characterization, biological sensing and medical imaging, practical development of these applications has been hindered by attributes of existing terahertz optoelectronics. Here we demonstrate that the use of plasmonic contact electrodes can significantly mitigate the low-quantum efficiency performance of photoconductive terahertz optoelectronics. The use of plasmonic contact electrodes offers nanoscale carrier transport path lengths for the majority of photocarriers, increasing the number of collected photocarriers in a subpicosecond timescale and, thus, enhancing the optical-to-terahertz conversion efficiency of photoconductive terahertz emitters and the detection sensitivity of photoconductive terahertz detectors. We experimentally demonstrate 50 times higher terahertz radiation powers from a plasmonic photoconductive emitter in comparison with a similar photoconductive emitter with non-plasmonic contact electrodes, as well as 30 times higher terahertz detection sensitivities from a plasmonic photoconductive detector in comparison with a similar photoconductive detector with non-plasmonic contact electrodes.