Self-Induced Phase Locking of Terahertz Frequency Combs in a Phase-Sensitive Hyperspectral Near-Field Nanoscope

V. Pistore, E. A. A. Pogna, L. Viti, L. Li, A. G. Davies, E. H. Linfield and M. S. Vitiello

Advanced Science Online Version, 2200410 (2022)
Chip-scale, electrically-pumped terahertz (THz) frequency-combs (FCs) rely on nonlinear four-wave-mixing processes, and have a nontrivial phase relationship between the evenly spaced set of emitted modes. Simultaneous monitoring and manipulation of the intermode phase coherence, without any external seeding or active modulation, is a very demanding task for which there has hitherto been no technological solution. Here, a self-mixing intermode-beatnote spectroscopy system is demonstrated, based on THz quantum cascade laser FCs, in which light is back-scattered from the tip of a scanning near-field optical-microscope (SNOM) and the intracavity reinjection monitored. This enables to exploit the sensitivity of FC phase-coherence to optical feedback and, for the first time, manipulate the amplitude, linewidth and frequency of the intermode THz FC beatnote using the feedback itself. Stable phase-locked regimes are used to construct a FC-based hyperspectral, THz s-SNOM nanoscope. This nanoscope provides 160 nm spatial resolution, coherent detection of multiple phase-locked modes, and mapping of the THz optical response of nanoscale materials up to 3.5 THz, with noise-equivalent-power (NEP) ≈400 pW √Hz−1. This technique can be applied to the entire infrared range, opening up a new approach to hyper-spectral near-field imaging with wide-scale applications in the study of plasmonics and quantum science, inter alia.