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Collective charge oscillations at the boundary between an insulating dielectric medium (such as air or glass) and a metal (such as gold, silver or copper) are able to sustain the propagation of infrared or visible-frequency electromagnetic
waves known as surface-plasmon-polaritons (SPP). SPPs are guided along metal-dielectric interfaces much in the same way light can be guided by an optical fiber, with the unique characteristic of subwavelength-scale confinement perpendicular
to the interface.

Nanofabricated systems that exploit SPPs offer fascinating opportunities for crafting and controlling the propagation of light in matter. In particular, SPPs can be used to channel light efficiently into nanometer-scale volumes, leading to direct modification
of mode dispersion properties (substantially shrinking the wavelength of light and the speed of light pulses for example), as well as huge field enhancements suitable for enabling strong interactions with nonlinear materials. The resulting enhanced sensitivity of light to external parameters (for example, an applied electric field or the dielectric constant of an adsorbed molecular layer) shows great promise for
applications in sensing and switching.

Our research is focused on the design, fabrication, and experimental characterization of novel components for measurement and communications based on nanoscale plasmonic effects. These devices include ultra-compact plasmonic interferometers for applications such as biosensing, optical positioning and optical switching, as well as the individual building blocks (plasmon source, waveguide and detector) needed to integrate a high-bandwidth, infrared-frequency plasmonic communications link on a silicon chip.

In addition to building functional devices based on SPPs, we also plan to exploit the dispersion characteristics of SPPs traveling in confined metallo-dielectric spaces to create photonic materials with artificially tailored bulk optical characteristics,
otherwise known as “metamaterials.”


Focus Areas:

  • Plasmon-interferometers for sensing and switching
  • Integrated plasmonic communications links on a silicon chip
  • Three-dimensional (3D) plasmonic metamaterials with a negative index of refraction
  • Focused-ion beam nanofabrication, construction analysis and metrology
  • Phase-sensitive heterodyne near-field optical microscopy (HNSOM)


False-color scanning electron Microscopy (SEM)
image of a metamaterial cantilever used for
demonstration of negative radiation pressure at
visible frequencies. Using focused-ion-beam milling,
the cantilever has been monolithically integrated
on the end of a 126-μm-diameter optical fiber.




Henri Lezec, Phone 301-975-8612

100 Bureau Drive, MS 6203
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-6203