Gate-tunable negative refraction of mid-infrared polaritons

H. Hu, N. Chen, H. Teng, R. Yu, M. Xue, K. Chen, Y. Xiao, Y. Qu, D. Hu, J. Chen, Z. Sun, P. Li, F. J. Garcia De Abajo and Q. Dai

Science 379, 558 (2023)
Negative refraction provides a platform to manipulate mid-infrared and terahertz radiation for molecular sensing and thermal emission applications. However, its implementation based on metamaterials and plasmonic media presents challenges with optical losses, limited spatial confinement, and lack of active tunability in this spectral range. We demonstrate gate-tunable negative refraction at mid-infrared frequencies using hybrid topological polaritons in van der Waals heterostructures. Specifically, we visualize wide-angle negatively refracted polaritons in α-MoO3 films partially decorated with graphene, undergoing reversible planar nanoscale focusing. Our atomically thick heterostructures weaken scattering losses at the interface while enabling an actively tunable transition of normal to negative refraction through electrical gating. We propose polaritonic negative refraction as a promising platform for infrared applications such as electrically tunable super-resolution imaging, nanoscale thermal manipulation, enhanced molecular sensing, and on-chip optical circuitry.