Plasmon Polaritons Dragged By Electron Flow

A pair of studies show that a quasiparticle called a plasmon polariton can be pulled with and against an electron flow, which could lead to more efficient light manipulation at the nanoscale.

When immersed in an electrical current flowing through a sheet of graphene, quasiparticles comprised of photon and electron waves — plasmon polaritons — have the potential to change speeds, according to a new study. However, while going against the flow of electrons, the polaritons appear to shift gears more easily in one direction — to a somewhat slower speed.

The discovery is significant for plasmonics, a science known for finding innovative and efficient ways to control light at the practically invisible size of individual atoms — for optical computers, nanolasers, and other applications such as imprinting patterns into semiconductors. There are two advantages to plasmon polaritons. They’re a suitable proxy for altering light because of their slower speed than photons. Polariton waves are likewise extremely small; dozens of them can fit into the wavelength of a single photon.

Electrons and photons combine to form polaritons, which have the best of both worlds. They’re small but nonetheless quantum, allowing for manipulation on ultra-fast time scales. It’s one of the components that photon-based circuits are currently lacking.

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