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Ultrafast optical switching of infrared plasmon polaritons in high-mobility graphene

G. X. Ni, L. Wang, M. D. Goldflam, M. Wagner, Z. Fei, A. S. McLeod, M. K. Liu, F. Keilmann, B. Özyilmaz, A. H. Castro Neto, J. Hone, M. M. Fogler & D. N. Basov

Nature Photonics 10, 244–247 (2016)
The success of metal-based plasmonics for manipulating light at the nanoscale has been empowered by imaginative designs and advanced nano-fabrication. However, the fundamental optical and electronic properties of elemental metals, the prevailing plasmonic media, are difficult to alter using external stimuli. This limitation is particularly restrictive in applications that require modification of the plasmonic response at sub-picosecond timescales. This handicap has prompted the search for alternative plasmonic media1, with graphene emerging as one of the most capable candidates for infrared wavelengths. Here we visualize and elucidate the properties of non-equilibrium photo-induced plasmons in a high-mobility graphene monolayer. We activate plasmons with femtosecond optical pulses in a specimen of graphene that otherwise lacks infrared plasmonic response at equilibrium. In combination with static nano-imaging results on plasmon propagation, our infrared pump–probe nano-spectroscopy investigation reveals new aspects of carrier relaxation in heterostructures based on high-purity graphene.