Probing subwavelength in-plane anisotropy with antenna-assisted infrared nano-spectroscopy

Z. Yao, X. Chen, L. Wehmeier, S. Xu, Y. Shao, Z. Zeng, F. Liu, A. S. Mcleod, S. N. Gilbert Corder, M. Tsuneto, W. Shi, Z. Wang, W. Zheng, H. A. Bechtel, G. L. Carr, M. C. Martin, A. Zettl, D. N. Basov, Xi Chen, L. M. Eng, S. C. Kehr and M. Liu

Nature Communications 12, 2649 (2021)
Infrared nano-spectroscopy based on scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) is commonly employed to probe the vibrational fingerprints of materials at the nanometer length scale. However, due to the elongated and axisymmetric tip shank, s-SNOM is less sensitive to the in-plane sample anisotropy in general. In this article, we report an easy-to-implement method to probe the in-plane dielectric responses of materials with the assistance of a metallic disk micro-antenna. As a proof-of-concept demonstration, we investigate here the in-plane phonon responses of two prototypical samples, i.e. in (100) sapphire and x-cut lithium niobate (LiNbO3). In particular, the sapphire in-plane vibrations between 350 cm−1 to 800 cm−1 that correspond to LO phonon modes along the crystal b- and c-axis are determined with a spatial resolution of < λ/10, without needing any fitting parameters. In LiNbO3, we identify the in-plane orientation of its optical axis via the phonon modes, demonstrating that our method can be applied without prior knowledge of the crystal orientation. Our method can be elegantly adapted to retrieve the in-plane anisotropic response of a broad range of materials, i.e. subwavelength microcrystals, van-der-Waals materials, or topological insulators.