Investigation of low-confinement surface phonon polariton launching on SiC and SrTiO3 using scanning near-field optical microscopy

J. Barnetta, D. Wendland, M. Lewin, K. G. Wirth, A. Heßler and T. Taubner

Applied Physics Letters 120, 211107 (2022)
Surface phonon polaritons (SPhPs) are important building blocks of nanophotonics, as they enable strong light–matter interaction on the nanoscale, are well-suited for applications in the mid- to far-infrared regime, and can show low losses. SrTiO3 is an interesting material for SPhPs, because it allows for reversible, nonvolatile doping with free charge carriers via oxygen vacancies and for local switching with conductive AFM tips. As a result, SrTiO3 could enable programmable nanophotonics with tunable SPhPs and direct writing of metasurfaces. Surface polariton properties can be determined by mapping their real-space propagation using scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM), which is sensitive to the high local electric fields with nanoscale lateral resolution. Low-confinement (LC) SPhPs with wavevectors close to that of free-space radiation, such as in SrTiO3 and the model polar dielectric SiC, can be difficult to investigate in s-SNOM due to interference effects with the incident illumination and fringe spacings exceeding the scan range or the size of the focus spot. Here, we present s-SNOM measurements of LC-SPhPs on SiC and SrTiO3 launched at gold stripes, retrieve physical quantities such as launching amplitude and phase, and show that they are influenced strongly by gold stripe geometry as well as illumination angle. Using two complementary measurements, we show a convenient way to determine the out-of-plane angle of the s-SNOM setup. Finally, we predict how control over the free charge carrier concentration in SrTiO3 could enable tunable LC-SPhPs, showing the potential of SrTiO3 for programmable nanophotonics.