Mapping propagation of collective modes in Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te2.2Se0.8 topological insulators by near-field terahertz nanoscopy

E. A. A. Pogna, L. Viti, A. Politano, M. Brambilla, G. Scamarcio and M. S. Vitiello

Nature Communications 12, 6672 (2021)
Near-field microscopy discloses a peculiar potential to explore novel quantum state of matter at the nanoscale, providing an intriguing playground to investigate, locally, carrier dynamics or propagation of photoexcited modes as plasmons, phonons, plasmon-polaritons or phonon-polaritons. Here, we exploit a combination of hyperspectral time domain spectroscopy nano-imaging and detectorless scattering near-field optical microscopy, at multiple terahertz frequencies, to explore the rich physics of layered topological insulators as Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te2.2Se0.8, hyperbolic materials with topologically protected surface states. By mapping the near-field scattering signal from a set of thin flakes of Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te2.2Se0.8 of various thicknesses, we shed light on the nature of the collective modes dominating their optical response in the 2-3 THz range. We capture snapshots of the activation of transverse and longitudinal optical phonons and reveal the propagation of sub-diffractional hyperbolic phonon-polariton modes influenced by the Dirac plasmons arising from the topological surface states and of bulk plasmons, prospecting new research directions in plasmonics, tailored nanophotonics, spintronics and quantum technologies.