Giant optical anisotropy in transition metal dichalcogenides for next-generation photonics

G. A. Ermolaev, D. V. Grudinin, Y. V. Stebunov, K. V. Voronin, V. G. Kravets, J. Duan, A. B. Mazitov, G. I. Tselikov, A. Bylinkin, D. I. Yakubovsky, S. M. Novikov, D. G. Baranov, A. Y. Nikitin, I. A. Kruglov, T. Shegai, P. Alonso-González, A. N. Grigorenko, A. V. Arsenin, K. S. Novoselov and V. S. Volkov

Nature Communications 12, 854 (2021)
Large optical anisotropy observed in a broad spectral range is of paramount importance for efficient light manipulation in countless devices. Although a giant anisotropy has been recently observed in the mid-infrared wavelength range, for visible and near-infrared spectral intervals, the problem remains acute with the highest reported birefringence values of 0.8 in BaTiS3 and h-BN crystals. This issue inspired an intensive search for giant optical anisotropy among natural and artificial materials. Here, we demonstrate that layered transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) provide an answer to this quest owing to their fundamental differences between intralayer strong covalent bonding and weak interlayer van der Waals interaction. To do this, we made correlative far- and near-field characterizations validated by first-principle calculations that reveal a huge birefringence of 1.5 in the infrared and 3 in the visible light for MoS2. Our findings demonstrate that this remarkable anisotropy allows for tackling the diffraction limit enabling an avenue for on-chip next-generation photonics.