Light on the Tip of a Needle: Plasmonic Nanofocusing for Spectroscopy on the Nanoscale

J Phys Chem Lett. 2012 Apr 5;3(7):945-52. doi: 10.1021/jz2016268. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


The efficiency of plasmonic nanostructures as optical antennas to concentrate optical fields to the nanoscale has been limited by intrinsically short dephasing times and small absorption cross sections. We discuss a new optical antenna concept based on surface plasmon polariton (SPP) nanofocusing on conical noble metal tips to achieve efficient far- to near-field transformation of light from the micro- to the nanoscale. The spatial separation of the launching of propagating SPPs from their subsequent apex confinement with high energy concentration enables background-free near-field imaging, tip-enhanced Raman scattering, and nonlinear nanospectroscopy. The broad bandwidth and spectral tunability of the nanofocusing mechanism in combination with frequency domain pulse shaping uniquely allow for the spatial confinement of ultrashort laser pulses and few-femtosecond spatiotemporal optical control on the nanoscale. This technique not only extends powerful nonlinear and ultrafast spectroscopies to the nanoscale but can also generate fields of sufficient intensity for electron emission and higher harmonic generation.