Terahertz Nanoimaging and Nanospectroscopy of Chalcogenide Phase-Change Materials

C. Chen, S. Chen, R. P. S. M. Lobo, C. Maciel-Escudero, M. Lewin, T. Taubner, W. Xiong, M. Xu, X. Zhang, X. Miao, P. Li and R. Hillenbrand

ACS Photonics, Article ASAP (2020)
Chalcogenide phase-change materials (PCMs) exhibit optical phonons at terahertz (THz) frequencies, which can be used for studying basic properties of the phase transition and which lead to a strong dielectric contrast that could be exploited for THz photonics applications. Here, we demonstrate that the phonons of PCMs can be studied by frequency-tunable THz scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM). Specifically, we perform spectroscopic THz nanoimaging of a PCM sample comprising amorphous and crystalline phases. We observe phonon signatures, yielding strong s-SNOM signals and, most important, clear spectral differences between the amorphous and crystalline PCM, which allows for distinguishing the PCM phases with high confidence on the nanoscale. We also found that the spectral signature can be enhanced, regarding both signal strength and spectral contrast, by increasing the radius of the probing tip. From a general perspective, our results establish THz s-SNOM for nanoscale structural and chemical mapping based on local phonon spectroscopy.