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Plasmonics and metamaterials

Probe nanoscale optical properties with cathodoluminescence

Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons in a metal.  The electron beam that is used in cathodoluminescence (CL), acts as a highly localized broad-band excitation source of plasmons. This makes CL ideal for characterizing spectral characteristics of local optical resonances in plasmonic nanoparticles and metamolecules used as building blocks for e.g. metasurfaces and sensors. Furthermore, it can be used to map, dispersion, directionality, and/or polarization in plasmonic waveguides, metasurfaces, and metamaterials to name a few examples.

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What we can help you to achieve
  • Gain insight into the nanoscale optical properties without perturbing the optical environment
  • Directly excite surface plasmon (polaritons) over a broad range of frequencies
  • Study mode profiles and spectral characteristics at the nanoscale
  • Study directionality and dispersion using angle-resolved CL imaging
  • Use CL polarimetry to study mode polarization and chirality


Angular profile as function of wavelength for elliptical bullseyes

In-depth characterization of plasmonic nanoantennas

Plasmonic nanoantennas have the ability to control the emission, absorption, and scattering of light at the nanoscale. They are promising for a large variety of applications including nanoscale sensing, spontaneous emission control, local heating, and color filtering. Due to their nanoscale nature, characterization of plasmonic nanoantennas is challenging with conventional optical far-field techniques. CL imaging is ideal for studying such small systems.

The electron beam used in CL provides a nanoscale excitation source which is broad band in energy and sensitive to the radiative local density of optical states, a key quantity in optics. Using CL, the optical properties of individual antennas can be characterized in great detail. CL can be used to directly map and identify resonant modes. Furthermore, using the angle-resolved detection capabilities of our CL systems, their directionality can be quantified precisely as well.

What can you achieve with cathodoluminescence?

The broad CL analysis portfolio can be used to study the optical properties of plasmonic systems. This can be employed to gain fundamental insights into novel plasmonic designs and phenomena, but also for characterization and quantification of applied plasmonic and metamaterial devices for imaging, sensing, and more.  

Hyperspectral CL map acquired in SEM on a gold plasmonic dolmen metamolecule Bright-field TEM image on a gold plasmonic dolmen metamolecule
Image slider showing a hyperspectral CL map acquired in SEM and a bright-field TEM image on a gold plasmonic dolmen metamolecule. The CL data reveals localized plasmonic resonances in this structure. Images by T. Coenen (Delmic, AMOLF). Also see T. Coenen et al. Nano Lett. 15, 7666-7670 (2015) and T. Coenen et al. Phys. Rev. B 93, 195429 (2016).

Use the right products to get the right results

Delmic CL solutions offers a range of powerful and user-friendly cathodoluminescence detectors, which can help you learn more about plasmonics and metamaterials.

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Delmic applications specialist Sangeetha Hari