Mechanical Detection and Imaging of Hyperbolic Phonon Polaritons in Hexagonal Boron Nitride

A. Ambrosio, L. A. Jauregui, S. Dai, K. Chaudhary, M. Tamagnone, M. M. Fogler, D. N. Basov, F. Capasso, P. Kim and W. L. Wilson

ACS Nano 11, 8741 (2017)
Mid-infrared nanoimaging and spectroscopy of two-dimensional (2D) materials have been limited so far to scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) experiments, where light from the sample is scattered by a metallic-coated atomic force microscope (AFM) tip interacting with the material at the nanoscale. These experiments have recently allowed imaging of plasmon polaritons in graphene as well as hyperbolic phonon polaritons in hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). Here we show that the high mechanical sensitivity of an AFM cantilever can be exploited for imaging hyperbolic phonon polaritons in hBN. In our imaging process, the lattice vibrations of hBN micrometer-sized flakes are locally enhanced by the launched phonon polaritons. These enhanced vibrations are coupled to the AFM tip in contact with the sample surface and recorded during scanning. Imaging resolution of Δ/20 is shown (Δ being the polaritonic fringes’ separation distance), comparable to the best resolution in s-SNOM. Importantly, this detection mechanism is free from light background, and it is in fact the first photonless detection of phonon polaritons.