Focusing Surface Plasmons with a Plasmonic Lens
Zhaowei Liu,† Jennifer M. Steele,† Werayut Srituravanich, Yuri Pikus, Cheng Sun, and Xiang Zhang*
NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), 5130 EtcheVerry Hall, UniVersity of California, Berkeley, California 94720
Received May 31, 2005; Revised Manuscript Received June 28, 2005

2005 Vol. 5, No. 9 1726-1729

We report the focusing of surface plasmon polaritons by circular and elliptical structures milled into optically thick metallic films or plasmonic lenses. Both theoretical and experimental data for the electromagnetic nearfield is presented. The nearfield is mapped experimentally using nearfield scanning optical microscopy and plasmonic lithography. We find that the intensity at the focal points of the plasmonic lenses increases with size.

Surface plasmon polariton (SPP) excitations on films and planar metallic structures allow for the manipulation of light on subwavelength scales, opening up possible applications such as sensing1-5 and plasmonic optical devices.4,6-9 Although the electromagnetic fields of SPPs decay exponentially normal to the surface, for noble metals, their propagation lengths along surfaces can reach tens of microns.10 This has allowed the realization of two-dimensional plasmonic optical components such as mirrors,11,12 waveguides,9,13,14 and interferometers.6,12 In this paper, we concentrate on circular and elliptical structures in metallic films, or plasmonic lenses, that excite as well as focus the electromagnetic energy of SPPs. Previous studies on the focusing of SPPs have investigated using surface defects to reflect SPPs.6,12,15,16 But because SPPs have a low reflection coefficient,17,18 the amount of energy reflected is likely insufficient for many proposed applications.16 One way to increase the SPP reflection from surface defects is to introduce periodic surface defects to increase the reflection through Bragg scattering.6,12 In this work, we obtain focusing not by reflection but by directionally exciting the SPPs toward the focus points. Instead of surface defects, the sharp edge of a slit milled through a metallic film was used to couple light into SPPs. The edge can be thought of as a line of SPP point sources. If the slit width is smaller than half of the incident wavelength of light, no propagating modes are possible and a majority of the light is diffracted.19-21 This diffracted light gains a ∆k in the direction along the film, allowing a portion of the incident light to excite a SPP.10,22 The wave vector of the SPP will be selected by the metallic surface according to its dispersion
* Corresponding author. E-mail: † The first two authors contributed equally to this work. 10.1021/nl051013j CCC: $30.25 Published on Web 07/29/2005 © 2005 American Chemical Society

curve, and will therefore depend on the frequency of incident light and the dielectric functions of the metal and the surrounding media.10 The direction of the wave vector, which determines the energy propagation direction, will be normal to the slit if the incident light is normal to the metal film. Consequentially, in the case of a plasmonic lens the energy will be guided toward the focal points of the lens. Because this is not a resonant process as in the case of a grating or particle, only a small fraction of the incident light will be coupled to the SPP. However, because a large band of k will be excited by the edge, different wavelengths of light may be used to excite surface plasmons on the same sample. This is an advantage over periodic surface defects, which will only efficiently reflect SPPs for a specified SPP wavelength. The electromagnetic nearfield distribution resulting from focused SPPs was recorded in two ways: nearfield scanning microscopy (NSOM) and plasmonic lithography. In both cases, metallic films were first evaporated onto a quartz plate. Then patterns were milled through the film using an FEI Strata 201 XP focused ion beam (FIB). For the NSOM measurements, 514 nm light from a Spectra-Physics 2000 argon ion laser was incident on the quartz side of the sample, and the nearfield intensity was measured with a metal-plated NSOM tip on the opposite side, shown schematically in Figure 1a. Silver films were used in the NSOM experiments because of its long SPP propagation lengths in the visible region. The laser light was linearly polarized in the direction shown by the arrow in Figure 1c. Because of the polarization, only the portions of the circle where a component of the incident electric field was perpendicular to the circle edge will excite SPPs. For the plasmonic lithography experiments, the patterned metallic films were spin coated with a thin layer of photoresist, shown in Figure 1b. The sample was then

both parallel and perpendicular to the surface. For the plasmonic lithography experiments. For 514 nm light incident on silver. The two additional focal points visible outside the ellipse indicate that the SPPs launched on the film are transmitted mostly through the slits on the opposite side of the ellipse. Elliptically shaped slits were milled into 70 nm thick aluminum films. the resist only records regions in which the local electromagnetic field intensity is above the exposure threshold for the photoresist and cannot distinguish different intensity levels above threshold.23 The NSOM and plasmonic lithography methods measure different aspects of the electromagnetic nearfield of the SPPs. This agrees very well with the measured period of 244 nm. the SPP wavelength is 490 nm. The surface roughness of the silver was measured with a Digital Instruments atomic force microscope (AFM) to be under 5 nm. The skin depth for Al in the UV is approximately 13 nm. we simulated a silver disk of the same height and diameter instead of a circle cut into a silver slab.24 However. Circles of different diameters were cut through a 150 nm thick silver film. aluminum was chosen because its SPP propagation lengths in the UV region are longer than those of silver. illuminated from the quartz side with the i-line (365 nm) of a mercury lamp. and therefore are not included here. the photoresist is sensitive to the total electromagnetic intensity and therefore measures the total electric field.5 µm.5 µm cut into a 70 nm thick aluminum film recorded with plasmonic lithography.18. The edge of the disk will diffract the light similar to the slits. Plasmonic lithography measurements of the circles cut into aluminum films only show a peak in the middle of the circle because of the large relative intensity at the focus point. Even with optimizing the exposure parameters. The average slit width for all of the circles measured was 283 ( 23 nm. here 27 nm.26 NSOM images of the ellipses did not reveal any additional information. The optical response of the circles was modeled using Microwave Studio (MWS). to eliminate the direct transmission of light through the film. (d) Nearfield pattern for an ellipse with a long axis of approximately 4 µm and a short axis of 2. 9. This agrees with other similar experimental results that report high transmission of SPPs through slits in metallic films. To minimize the computation size and time. The period of the interference fringes is therefore expected to be half of that of the SPP wavelength. SPPs excited normal to the slits are focused into the center of the circle. It is generally accepted that NSOM tips are more sensitive to the component of the electric field parallel to the surface. respectively.27 The calculations also show that the ratio of |Ex|2 to |Ez|2 is about 1:10. a computer program that calculates the electromagnetic response of metallic and dielectric objects using a method based on the finite difference time domain (FDTD) method. the resist was chemically developed to record the nearfield patterns. Polarization of incident light is indicated with an arrow. As the SPPs travel along the film and encounter the opposite side of the ellipse. This ensures that all fringes measured are the result of SPP interference and not interference with directly transmitted light.Figure 1. It is therefore difficult to resolve the fine details of nearfield patterns that contain a large range of intensities or poor contrast of high to low intensity areas. These two methods for recording the nearfield yield important information. allowing for the entire edge of the pattern to excite SPPs uniformly. The SPPs are excited normally from the ellipse edge. The two interior focal points of the ellipse are clearly visible. it was not possible to duplicate the detail obtained with NSOM. Experimental setup for (a) NSOM and (b) plasmonic lithography measurements for recording the nearfield pattern for plasmonic lenses. but this is still under debate. 1727 . One notable difference is the intensity at the center of the circle. Also apparent in Figure 1c is that the intensity is highest at the center of the circle. 2005 silver film was chosen to be several times the skin depth. (c) Nearfield pattern for a 14 µm diameter circle cut into a 150 nm thick silver film recorded with NSOM. Figure 1d shows the AFM profile of developed resist for an ellipse fabricated with a long axis of approximately 4 µm and a short axis of 2. giving an interference period of 245 nm.. and it is therefore instructive to consider them both. Figure 2a and b show the x and z components of the intensity of the electromagnetic field just above the silver surface.25 Figure 1c shows a representative nearfield pattern collected by NSOM for a 14 µm diameter circle. No. The thickness of the Nano Lett. The lamp provides unpolarized light to excite the SPPs. After exposure for a few seconds.17. Vol. but the coupling efficiency is likely to be different because of the difference in geometry. and the pattern created is precisely what one would obtain if normal lines were drawn from the circumference of the ellipse. Although the plasmonic lithography method has an advantage over NSOM measurements in that it gives the full plasmonic response. so the directly transmitted light is almost completely attenuated and the recorded nearfield pattern results solely from SPP excitations. portions of the SPP wave will either be reflected or transmitted. interfering with each other to create a standing wave. This method is similar to the photochemical imaging outlined recently. Charge conservation dictates that the x component of the electric field must reach a maximum at the center while the z component vanishes. 5.

section of |Ex|2 was plotted together for a 6 µm diameter circle in Figure 2c. indicating that the interference pattern indeed consists of only interfering SPP waves on the silverair side of the sample and contains no contributions from the incident light or SPPs excited on the silver-quartz side. and the effect of the surface defects on the overall pattern will be greater. here 20. (c) Comparison of the cross section of the calculated |Ex|2 for the disk in a and the measured NSOM intensity for a circle milled into a 150 nm thick silver film with a 6 µm diameter.4 µm. Nano Lett. more energy will be coupled into the SPPs. the intensity at the center of the circle will be proportional to the circle circumference divided by the circumference of the area inside the circle of highest intensity. lsp is the propagation length for the SPP. Figure 3b shows data measured experimentally using NSOM. and C is the coupling efficiency of the slit. Additionally. the more likely they are to encounter a surface defect. the circumference will be π(λsp/2) where λsp is the wavelength of the SPP excited along the film. the error increases with the diameter of the circle. (b) NSOM measurement of the intensity at the center of the circle normalized to the intensity measured in the slit as a function of diameter. r is the radius of the circle. C is a complicated function of the slit geometry and will likely have a different functional form when the slit width is much larger or much smaller than the incident wavelength. In general.. Very good agreement is achieved between simulation and experiment. Each point represents an average of several samples fabricated and measured under identical illumination conditions with the same NSOM tip. 9. Beyond the SPP propagation length. The expression for these two competing processes is therefore I ) CI0 4r (-(r/lsp)) e λsp (1) Figure 3. The longer the path the SPPs have to travel to reach the center. Equation 1 is plotted along with |Ex|2 at the center of the circle as a function of diameter as calculated by MWS in Figure 3a using the coupling efficiency as a fitting parameter.Figure 2. The experimental results show a maximum in the center of the circle indicating that the NSOM tip is more sensitive to Ex as predicted by theoretical studies24 despite the larger contribution of Ez to the total intensity. the cross section of the experimental data and the calculated cross 1728 where I0 is the incident intensity. as the radius of the milled circle approaches the propagation length of the SPPs. Because each point is an average of the same number of samples. Approximating the area in the center of the circle with the highest intensity as a circle with a diameter of one interference fringe. Dots show |Ex|2 calculated by MWS. To determine to what extent Ez contributes to the measured NSOM intensity. Vol. which is expected for the range of diameters accessible experimentally. (a) Intensity at the center of the lens calculated using eq 1. The period of the fringes is 244 nm. as the diameter of the circle is increased. 5. The line is a linear fit to the data.25 Assuming that the edge of the slit acts like a line source of SPPs. Therefore. validating the assertion that the NSOM tip preferentially measures |Ex|2 and approximating the circle as a disk. Calculated intensity for the x (a) and z (b) component of the electric field for a silver disk 150 nm thick with a diameter of 6 µm. the measured period is half of the SPP wavelength. the increase in error is likely due to the larger area of these circles. The dependence on the diameter of the circle is roughly linear for diameters much less than the SPP propagation length for silver at the incident wavelength. 2005 . the intensity begins to decrease as the SPPs are damped out before reaching the center. and the intensity at the center will increase. the enhancement will be reduced through loss as the SPPs are damped out. However. No. The intensity in the center of the circle was normalized to the maximum intensity recorded in the slit region by the NSOM tip. The intensity in the center will then be enhanced by a ratio of the milled circle circumference (2πr) to the inner circumference.

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