Unidirectionally excited phonon polaritons in high-symmetry orthorhombic crystals

Q. Zhang, Q. Ou, G. Si, G. Hu, S. Dong, Y. Chen, J. Ni, C. Zhao, M. S. Fuhrer, Y. Yang, A. Alù, R. Hillenbrand and C.-W. Qiu

Science Advances 8, eabn9774 (2022)
Advanced control over the excitation of ultraconfined polaritons—hybrid light and matter waves—empowers unique opportunities for many nanophotonic functionalities, e.g., on-chip circuits, quantum information processing, and controlling thermal radiation. Recent work has shown that highly asymmetric polaritons are directly governed by asymmetries in crystal structures. Here, we experimentally demonstrate extremely asymmetric and unidirectional phonon polariton (PhP) excitation via directly patterning high-symmetry orthorhombic van der Waals (vdW) crystal α-MoO3. This phenomenon results from symmetry breaking of momentum matching in polaritonic diffraction in vdW materials. We show that the propagation of PhPs can be versatile and robustly tailored via structural engineering, while PhPs in low-symmetry (e.g., monoclinic and triclinic) crystals are largely restricted by their naturally occurring permittivities. Our work synergizes grating diffraction phenomena with the extreme anisotropy of high-symmetry vdW materials, enabling unexpected control of infrared polaritons along different pathways and opening opportunities for applications ranging from on-chip photonics to directional heat dissipation.