Nanoplasmonics, Graphene, and Metamaterials

Recently, nanoplasmonics has risen from a relatively obscure science to a prominent field of research. Electronic interconnects are aspect-ratio limited in speed (< 20 GHz) and optical interconnects are diffraction-limited in size (>150 nm for silicon waveguides). Surface plasmons can be envisioned as quasi-two dimensional electromagnetic excitations, propagating along a dielectric-metal interface and having the field components decaying exponentially with penetration depth as small as several nanometers into both neighboring media. Surface plasmon–based circuits, which merge electronic and photonic circuits at the nanoscale, may offer the potential to carry optical signals and electric currents through the same thin metal circuitry, thereby creating the ability to combine the superior technical advantages of photonics and electronics on the same chip.

Both nanoplasmonics and metamaterials deal with tailored metal/dielectric and metal/semiconductor nanostructures, e.g. material with negative permittivity. Our lab at Microsystems Engineering is focused on experimental and theoretical aspects of this rapidly developing field ranging from fundamental science to applications and products, such as nanoplasmonic waveguides, ultrafast active nanoplasmonics, surface plasmon-enhanced solar cells, 3D metamaterials, 3D invisibility cloaks, negative refraction, and subwavelength imaging.

Research on graphene has revealed its unique optical properties, including strong coupling with light, high-speed operation, and gate-variable optical conductivity, which promise to satisfy the needs of future electro-optic (EO) modulators, and some pioneering works, have indeed shown the prospects. However, compared with the size of on-chip electronic components it is still bulky. On-chip optical interconnects require EO modulators at the nanoscale. Shrinking the dimensions of current graphene modulators will result in a very poor modulation depth. The key to achieve nanoscale graphene EO modulation is to greatly enhance light-graphene interaction based on novel waveguides and platforms. Our lab is also developing ultrahigh-speed nanoscale graphene modulators.


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