Ultimate Limit for Optical Losses in Gold, Revealed by Quantitative Near-Field Microscopy

Y. Lebsir, S. Boroviks, M. Thomaschewski, S. I. Bozhevolnyi and V. A. Zenin

Nano Letters 22, 5759 (2022)
We report thorough measurements of surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) running along nearly perfect air-gold interfaces formed by atomically flat surfaces of chemically synthesized gold monocrystals. By means of amplitude- and phase-resolved near-field microscopy, we obtain their propagation length and effective mode index at visible wavelengths (532, 594, 632.8, 729, and 800 nm). The measured values are compared with the values obtained from the dielectric functions of gold that are reported in literature. Importantly, a reported dielectric function of monocrystalline gold implies ∼1.5 times shorter propagation lengths than those observed in our experiments, whereas a dielectric function reported for properly fabricated polycrystalline gold leads to SPP propagation lengths matching our results. We argue that the SPP propagation lengths measured in our experiments signify the ultimate limit of optical losses in gold, encouraging further comprehensive characterization of optical material properties of pure gold as well as other plasmonic materials.