Optical Nanoimaging of Hyperbolic Surface Polaritons at the Edges of van der Waals Materials

P. Li , I. Dolado, F. J. Alfaro-Mozaz, A. Yu. Nikitin, F. Casanova, L. E. Hueso, S. Vélez, and R. Hillenbrand

Nanoletters 17, 228 (2016)
Hyperbolic polaritons in van der Waals (vdW) materials recently attract a lot of attention, owing to their strong electromagnetic field confinement, ultraslow group velocities, and long lifetimes. Typically, volume-confined hyperbolic polaritons (HPs) are studied. Here we show the first near-field optical images of hyperbolic surface polaritons (HSPs), which are confined and guided at the edges of thin flakes of a vdW material. To that end, we applied scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) for launching and real-space nanoimaging of hyperbolic surface phonon polariton modes on a hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) flake. Our imaging data reveal that the fundamental HSP mode exhibits a stronger field confinement (shorter wavelength), smaller group velocities, and nearly identical lifetimes, as compared to the fundamental HP mode of the same h-BN flake. Our experimental data, corroborated by theory, establish a solid basis for future studies and applications of HPs and HSPs in vdW materials.