Trapping and controlling light at the interface of atomically thin nanomaterials

August 20, 2020

Light can partake in peculiar phenomena at the nanoscale. Exploring these phenomena can unlock sophisticated applications and provide useful insights into the interactions between light waves and other materials.

In a recent study, scientists at Cornell University propose a novel method by which nanoscale light can be manipulated and transported. These special modes of light transport are known to arise at finely tuned interfaces between slightly different nanomaterials. Minwoo Jung, lead researcher on this study, illustrates this concept through a simple analogy: "A floating tube has a hole in the middle, but a normal balloon doesn't. No matter how you squeeze the round balloon, it cannot be reshaped like a donut-at least not without popping the balloon, re-knitting the rubber, and re-injecting the air. Thus, a tube and a balloon are distinct in their topology because they are not connected through a smooth deformation."

Jung further explains that physicists have been interested in gluing two topologically distinct materials side by side so that one of them acts like a balloon and the other like a tube. This means that, at their interface, a process that connects these two materials must occur, much like the poking/popping/re-knitting/re-injecting from a balloon to a tube. Under the right conditions, this process can give rise to a strong channel for transmitting energy or information along the interface. Because this process can be applied to light (which acts as a carrier of energy or information), this branch of physics is called topological photonics.

Jung and his team combined the fascinating concept of topological photonics with an innovative technique that traps light in an atomically thin material. This method brought together two rapidly emerging fields in applied and fundamental physics: graphene nanolight and topological photonics. Jung says, "Graphene is a promising platform for storing and controlling nanoscale light and could be key in the development of on-chip and ultracompact nanophotonic devices, such as waveguides and cavities."

The research team ran simulations involving a graphene sheet layered on a nanopatterned material that functions as a metagate. This honeycomb-like metagate consists of a solid layer of material with holes of different sizes, centered at the vertices of the hexagons. The varying radii of these holes affect the way in which the photons pass through the material. The scientists found that strategically "gluing" together two different metagates creates a topological effect that confines photons at their interface in a predictable, controllable manner.

Different choices of metagate designs demonstrate the dimensional hierarchy of the device's topology. Specifically, depending on the metagate geometry, nanolight can be made to flow along one-dimensional edges of the topological interface or can be topologically stored at zero-dimensional (point-like) vertices. Moreover, the metagate allows for on-and-off electric switching of these waveguides or cavities. Such battery-operated topological effects can benefit the technological adoption of topological photonics in practical devices.

Jung's team is optimistic that the synergistic combination of graphene nanolight and topological photonics will spur advances in relevant research areas, like optics, material sciences, and solid-state physics. Their graphene-based material system is simple, efficient, and suitable for nanophotonic applications: a step forward in harnessing the full potential of light.
-end-
Read the original article in the peer reviewed, open access journal Advanced Photonics: M. Jung, R. G. Gladstone, and G. Shvets, "Nanopolaritonic second-order topological insulator based on graphene plasmons" Adv. Photon. 2(4), 046003 (2020), doi: 10.1117/1.AP.2.4.046003.

SPIE--International Society for Optics and Photonics

Related Graphene Articles from Brightsurf:

How to stack graphene up to four layers
IBS research team reports a novel method to grow multi-layered, single-crystalline graphene with a selected stacking order in a wafer scale.

Graphene-Adsorbate van der Waals bonding memory inspires 'smart' graphene sensors
Electric field modulation of the graphene-adsorbate interaction induces unique van der Waals (vdW) bonding which were previously assumed to be randomized by thermal energy after the electric field is turned off.

Graphene: It is all about the toppings
The way graphene interacts with other materials depends on how these materials are brought into contact with the graphene.

Discovery of graphene switch
Researchers at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) successfully developed the special in-situ transmission electron microscope technique to measure the current-voltage curve of graphene nanoribbon (GNR) with observing the edge structure and found that the electrical conductance of narrow GNRs with a zigzag edge structure abruptly increased above the critical bias voltage, indicating that which they are expected to be applied to switching devices, which are the smallest in the world.

New 'brick' for nanotechnology: Graphene Nanomesh
Researchers at Japan advanced institute of science and technology (JAIST) successfully fabricated suspended graphene nanomesh (GNM) by using the focused helium ion beam technology.

Flatter graphene, faster electrons
Scientists from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the Department of Physics at the University of Basel developed a technique to flatten corrugations in graphene layers.

Graphene Flagship publishes handbook of graphene manufacturing
The EU-funded research project Graphene Flagship has published a comprehensive guide explaining how to produce and process graphene and related materials (GRMs).

How to induce magnetism in graphene
Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechani-cal, electronic and optical properties.

Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets
New research by engineers at the University of Illinois combines atomic-scale experimentation with computer modeling to determine how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene -- a question that has eluded scientists since graphene was first isolated.

How do you know it's perfect graphene?
Scientists at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory have discovered an indicator that reliably demonstrates a sample's high quality, and it was one that was hiding in plain sight for decades.

Read More: Graphene News and Graphene Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.