Electrical and picosecond optical control of plasmonic nanoantenna hybrid devices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


Miniaturization of optical components for on-chip integration of electronic and photonic functionalities is one of the new frontiers with the promise of enabling a next generation of integrated optoelectronic circuits. A particularly fascinating prospect is the achievement of an optical analogue of the electronic transistor, which forms the building block of our computers. Our approach involves a nanoscale version of a radiowave antenna, the plasmonic nanoantenna. Plasmonic antennas are designed to overcome the diffraction limit of light and to focus light into a nanometer-sized antenna 'feed' gap.

In our first studies supported by EPSRC we have proposed a variety of devices exploiting hybrid interactions of a nanoantenna with an active substrate. Here, we aim to launch a full-scale investigation of such hybrid antenna devices including various geometries and metal oxide substrates, where the plasmonic antenna will be exploited as a nanoscale sensitizer for the active substrate. Integration of a nanoantenna switches with a nanoelectronic transistor will yield a new class of optoelectronic devices: the nanoantenna MOSFET.

The proposed optically and electrically controlled nanoantenna devices are of enormous interest as a bridge for on-chip control of electrical and optical information. In addition, ultrafast active control of local fields and antenna radiation patterns will enable new applications in nonlinear optics, Raman sensors, and optical quantum information technology.

Planned Impact

Some very fundamental barriers loom ahead which will severely restrict what can be squeezed out of silicon technology. We are already approaching the limits of miniaturization where the atomistic nature of matter introduces uncontrollable variability in device behaviour.

Optical devices are widely used in the telecommunication area, and have been applied as board level global interconnects. Introducing optical interconnects into the Si architecture itself requires compatibility with CMOS technology. The development of a fast and cost efficient electro-optical modulator is one of the most challenging tasks on the path towards realizing on-chip optical interconnects.

The proposed nano-switch antennas can act as a miniature nanometer-sized light (or more precise plasmon) source and electro-optical modulator at the same time. There is currently an enormous scientific interest worldwide in plasmon-based nanotechnology. The concepts of antenna switches will be of considerable interest to academic researchers including plasmonics and nanophotonics scientists, quantum information scientists, silicon photonics experts, chemical scientists, and electronics experts. In addition to IP arising from this work (which we will aim to protect through patent applications and exploit with advice and expertise from staff in the Research & Innovation Services in the University of Southampton), the project has the potential to deliver high impact publications - internationally leading journals such as Science, Nature Materials, Nature Photonics, Nano Letters, and Physical Review Letters will be targeted to ensure wide exposure among the academic community, and the results will be disseminated through presentations by the investigators and researchers at appropriate international and national conferences (e.g. SPIE Meetings, SPP, CMMP, NanoMeta). These meetings will ensure that the results are disseminated effectively among materials scientists, optics and electronics scientists as well as to industrialists attending.


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Description Plasmonics is a relatively new branch of photonics and deals with surface plasmon polaritons that are, e.g. sustained locally by metallic nanoparticles. Plasmons are basically collective electron oscillations that are excited (or "driven") by light of a certain frequency. These plasmon resonances are widely tunable depending on the size, shape and material of the nanoparticles that are used.

In 2011, we were first able to explain the hybrid response of a gold nanoantenna consisting of two closely coupled nanorods positioned on an ITO substrate by suggesting a mechanism of hot electron injection from the antennas into the surrounding medium up to approx. 100 nm, which then lead to an increase in mobility of the electrons there and further migration of carriers.

In this project, we have designed plasmonic devices where we can take advantage of this mechanism with the additional benefit of separating heat generated in the system and the purely ultrafast response. We have demonstrated picosecond optical control in antenna arrays, mediated by the local enhancements of electromagnetic fields in the nanostructure.

Through our collaboration with Salford University we have combined plasmonic nanoantennas with thermochromic vanadium dioxide. We have shown that the antennas can be used to locally drive an insulator to metal phase transition. We have used picosecond optical excitation to resonantly pump nanoantennas.

In addition, we are developing routes toward electrical switching of plasmonic devices, using field-effect transistors commonly found in silicon electronic chips. Progress is being made toward on-chip ultracompact devices for controlling light, which will find use in next generation light-based information technologies.
Exploitation Route Important next steps include further optimization of device efficiency, including reduction of scattering and absorption losses, modulation contrast, and integration with silicon (CMOS) technology.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other

URL http://nanotechweb.org/cws/search?siteCode=ntw&query=muskens
Description Impact has been generated through training of postgraduate researchers and associated undergraduate research projects. We are currently actively pursuing impact in Aerospace and Defence through running grants with DSTL and through a consortium funded by Horizon 2020 grants METAREFLECTOR and SMART-FLEX. An Innovation Triangle Initiative funded by the European Space Agency is currently exploring new directions for impact.
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other
Impact Types Societal

Description DSTL UK-France PhD studentship grant 2012-2016
Amount £127,036 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2012 
End 09/2016
Description H2020-COMPET-03-2015:Bottom-up space technologies at low TRL
Amount € 999,998 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2018
Description SPACE-11-TEC-2018 Generic space technologies
Amount € 2,047,657 (EUR)
Funding ID 821932 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2019 
End 06/2022
Description Themed competition
Amount £45,263 (GBP)
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 08/2015
Description Collaboration with Javier Aizpurua, DIPC and CFM, San Sebastian Spain 
Organisation University of the Basque Country
Department Materials Physics Center
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution 2 month visit of the student Daniel Traviss to institute in San Sebastian, access to specialised simulation tools.
Collaborator Contribution Access to specialised simulation software, hosting of research student for a period of two months.
Impact Research article, presentations at conferences
Start Year 2013
Description Collaboration with San Sebastian, Spain 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution 1 month hosting of PDRA from Spain Pablo Albella in Southampton, February 2012
Collaborator Contribution PDRA researcher time for theoretical / computational support of research activity
Impact N. Large, M. Abb, J. Aizpurua, O. L. Muskens, Photoconductively loaded plasmonic nanoantenna as building block for ultracompact optical switches, Nano Lett. 10, 1741 - 1746 (2010) M. Abb, P. Albella, J. Aizpurua, O. L. Muskens, All-optical control of a single plasmonic nanoantenna-ITO hybrid, Nano Lett. 11(6), 2457-2463 (2011) M. Abb, Y. Wang, P. Albella, C. H. de Groot, J. Aizpurua, and O. L. Muskens, Interference, Coupling, and Nonlinear Control of High-Order Modes in Single Asymmetric Nanoantennas, ACS Nano 6 (7), 6462-6470 (2012) Y. Wang, M. Abb, S. A. Boden, J. Aizpurua, C. H. de Groot, O. L. Muskens, Ultrafast nonlinear control of progressively loaded, single plasmonic nanoantennas fabricated using helium ion milling, Nano Lett. 13, 5647-5653 (2013)
Start Year 2010