Broad spectral tuning of ultra-low-loss polaritons in a van der Waals crystal by intercalation

Nat Mater. 2020 Sep;19(9):964-968. doi: 10.1038/s41563-020-0665-0. Epub 2020 Apr 13.


Phonon polaritons-light coupled to lattice vibrations-in polar van der Waals crystals are promising candidates for controlling the flow of energy on the nanoscale due to their strong field confinement, anisotropic propagation and ultra-long lifetime in the picosecond range1-5. However, the lack of tunability of their narrow and material-specific spectral range-the Reststrahlen band-severely limits their technological implementation. Here, we demonstrate that intercalation of Na atoms in the van der Waals semiconductor α-V2O5 enables a broad spectral shift of Reststrahlen bands, and that the phonon polaritons excited show ultra-low losses (lifetime of 4 ± 1 ps), similar to phonon polaritons in a non-intercalated crystal (lifetime of 6 ± 1 ps). We expect our intercalation method to be applicable to other van der Waals crystals, opening the door for the use of phonon polaritons in broad spectral bands in the mid-infrared domain.