Fundamental limits to graphene plasmonics

Nature. 2018 May;557(7706):530-533. doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0136-9. Epub 2018 May 23.


Plasmon polaritons are hybrid excitations of light and mobile electrons that can confine the energy of long-wavelength radiation at the nanoscale. Plasmon polaritons may enable many enigmatic quantum effects, including lasing 1 , topological protection2,3 and dipole-forbidden absorption 4 . A necessary condition for realizing such phenomena is a long plasmonic lifetime, which is notoriously difficult to achieve for highly confined modes 5 . Plasmon polaritons in graphene-hybrids of Dirac quasiparticles and infrared photons-provide a platform for exploring light-matter interaction at the nanoscale6,7. However, plasmonic dissipation in graphene is substantial 8 and its fundamental limits remain undetermined. Here we use nanometre-scale infrared imaging to investigate propagating plasmon polaritons in high-mobility encapsulated graphene at cryogenic temperatures. In this regime, the propagation of plasmon polaritons is primarily restricted by the dielectric losses of the encapsulated layers, with a minor contribution from electron-phonon interactions. At liquid-nitrogen temperatures, the intrinsic plasmonic propagation length can exceed 10 micrometres, or 50 plasmonic wavelengths, thus setting a record for highly confined and tunable polariton modes. Our nanoscale imaging results reveal the physics of plasmonic dissipation and will be instrumental in mitigating such losses in heterostructure engineering applications.

Publication types

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