Near-Field Retrieval of the Surface Phonon Polariton Dispersion in Free-Standing Silicon Carbide Thin Films

A. Mancini, L. Nan, F. J. Wendisch, R. Berté, H. Ren, E. Cortés and S. A. Maier

ACS Photonics 9, 3696 (2022)
Surface phonon polaritons (SPhPs) are mixed light-matter states originating from strong coupling of photons with lattice vibrations. Thin films of polar dielectrics feature a splitting of the SPhP branch due to the hybridization of the top and bottom interface modes. Recently, enhanced in-plane thermal conductivity and near-field energy transfer have been experimentally demonstrated in free-standing polar films. These effects are determined by the SPhP dispersion in these systems, which, however, is yet to be reported experimentally. In this work, we retrieve the SPhP dispersion in silicon carbide free-standing membranes few hundreds of nanometers thick through near-field spectroscopy. We find several branches in the experimental dispersion, which we rationalize as multiple reflections of tip and edge launched SPhPs, in good agreement with theoretical predictions. Our work paves the way to employ large-area free-standing membranes as a platform for phonon polaritonics, with foreseeable applications in the field of thermal management at the nanoscale.