Van der Waals materials as dielectric layers for tailoring the near-field photonic response of surfaces

D. Grasseschi, D. A. Bahamon, F. C. B. Maia, I. D. Barcelos, R. O. Freitas and C. J. S. de Matos

Optics Express 30, 225 (2021)
Epsilon near-zero photonics and surface polariton nanophotonics have become major fields within optics, leading to unusual and enhanced light-matter interaction. Specific dielectric responses are required in both cases, which can be achieved, e.g., via operation near a material’s electronic or phononic resonance. However, this condition restricts operation to a specific, narrow frequency range. It has been shown that using a thin dielectric layer can adjust the dielectric response of a surface and, therefore, the operating frequency for achieving specific photonic excitations. Here, we show that a surface’s optical properties can be tuned via the deposition/transference of ultra-thin layered van der Waals (vdW) crystals, the thicknesses of which can easily be adjusted to provide the desired response. In particular, we experimentally and theoretically show that the surface phonon resonance of a silica surface can be tuned by ∼50 cm−1 through the simple deposition of nanometer-thick exfoliated flakes of black phosphorus. The surface properties were probed by infrared nanospectroscopy, and results show a close agreement with the theory. The black phosphorus-silica layered structure effectively acts as a surface with a tunable effective dielectric constant that presents an infrared response dependent on the black phosphorus thickness. In contrast, with a lower dielectric constant, hexagonal boron nitride does not significantly tune the silica surface phonon polariton. Our approach also applies to epsilon near-zero surfaces, as theoretically shown, and to polaritonic surfaces operating at other optical ranges.