Polaritonic Vortices with a Half-Integer Charge

L. Xiong, Y. Li, D. Halbertal, M. Sammon, Z. Sun, S. Liu, J. H. Edgar, T. Low, M. M. Fogler, C. R. Dean, A. J. Millis and D. N. Basov

Nanoletters 21,9256 (2021)
Topological spin textures are field arrangements that cannot be continuously deformed to a fully polarized state. In particular, merons are topological textures characterized by half-integer topological charge ±1/2 and vortex-like swirling patterns at large distances. Merons have been studied previously in the context of cosmology, fluid dynamics, condensed matter physics and plasmonics. Here, we visualized optical spin angular momentum of phonon polaritons that resembles nanoscale meron spin textures. Phonon polaritons, hybrids of infrared photons and phonons in hexagonal boron nitride, were excited by circularly polarized light incident on a ring-shaped antenna and imaged using infrared near-field techniques. The polariton field reveals a half-integer topological charge determined by the handedness of the incident beam. Our phonon polaritonic platform opens up new pathways to create, control, and visualize topological textures.