Design, fabrication, and experimental characterization of plasmonic photoconductive terahertz emitters

J Vis Exp. 2013 Jul 8;(77):e50517. doi: 10.3791/50517.

Abstract

In this video article we present a detailed demonstration of a highly efficient method for generating terahertz waves. Our technique is based on photoconduction, which has been one of the most commonly used techniques for terahertz generation (1-8). Terahertz generation in a photoconductive emitter is achieved by pumping an ultrafast photoconductor with a pulsed or heterodyned laser illumination. The induced photocurrent, which follows the envelope of the pump laser, is routed to a terahertz radiating antenna connected to the photoconductor contact electrodes to generate terahertz radiation. Although the quantum efficiency of a photoconductive emitter can theoretically reach 100%, the relatively long transport path lengths of photo-generated carriers to the contact electrodes of conventional photoconductors have severely limited their quantum efficiency. Additionally, the carrier screening effect and thermal breakdown strictly limit the maximum output power of conventional photoconductive terahertz sources. To address the quantum efficiency limitations of conventional photoconductive terahertz emitters, we have developed a new photoconductive emitter concept which incorporates a plasmonic contact electrode configuration to offer high quantum-efficiency and ultrafast operation simultaneously. By using nano-scale plasmonic contact electrodes, we significantly reduce the average photo-generated carrier transport path to photoconductor contact electrodes compared to conventional photoconductors (9). Our method also allows increasing photoconductor active area without a considerable increase in the capacitive loading to the antenna, boosting the maximum terahertz radiation power by preventing the carrier screening effect and thermal breakdown at high optical pump powers. By incorporating plasmonic contact electrodes, we demonstrate enhancing the optical-to-terahertz power conversion efficiency of a conventional photoconductive terahertz emitter by a factor of 50 (10).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electrodes
  • Equipment Design
  • Optics and Photonics / instrumentation*
  • Optics and Photonics / methods
  • Photometry / instrumentation*
  • Photometry / methods
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance / instrumentation*
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance / methods
  • Terahertz Radiation