Spin-patterned plasmonics: towards optical access to topological-insulator surface states

G. Spektor, A. David, G. Bartal, M. Orenstein, and A. Hayat

Optics Express Vol. 23, Issue 25, pp. 32759-32765 (2015)
Topological insulators (TI) are new phases of matter with topologically protected surface states (SS) possessing novel physical properties such as spin-momentum locking. Coupling optical angular momentum to the SS is of interest for both fundamental understanding and applications in future spintronic devices. However, due to the nanoscale thickness of the surface states, the light matter interaction is dominated by the bulk. Here we propose and experimentally demonstrate a plasmonic cavity enabling both nanoscale light confinement and control of surface plasmon-polariton (SPP) spin angular momentum (AM) – towards coupling to topological-insulator SS. The resulting SPP field components within the cavity are arranged in a chess-board-like pattern. Each chess-board square exhibits approximately a uniform circular polarization (spin AM) of the local in-plane field interleaved by out-of-plane field vortices (orbital AM). As the first step, we demonstrate the predicted pattern experimentally by near-field measurements on a gold-air interface, with excellent agreement to our theory. Our results pave the way towards efficient optical access to topological-insulator surface states using plasmonics.