A gas cluster ion beam smoothing produces ultrathin silver films and lithographically patterned structures to enhance plasmonic performance.
Plasmonic devices — such as superlenses, hyperlenses and plasmonic waveguides — have exciting potential for research and commercial applications because they permit optical lithography, imaging and waveguiding to be performed at resolutions below the diffraction limit of light.
These devices often require low-loss ultrathin metal films, which are difficult to fabricate using current deposition techniques. Researchers have investigated processes such as seed layer deposition and thermal annealing to reduce the surface roughness and grain-boundary density of these films. To date, however, these processes have not been hugely successful.
Now, Ee Jin Teo and colleagues at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, Singapore, the University of Hyogo, Japan, and the National University of Singapore have used gas cluster ion beam (GCIB) processing to smooth ultrathin metal films and thereby enhance their properties(1).
A GCIB consists of thousands of gas molecules that are weakly bound by van der Waals forces. Such a beam is able to smooth out surface irregularities and reduce film thickness with nanometer precision. This processing significantly enhances surface plasmon resonance and propagation, and enables the fabrication of ultrathin films with extremely low electrical resistivity and optical loss.
Unlike monomer ion beams used in conventional ion-beam milling and plasma etching, a cluster of nitrogen gas molecules with an energy of 20 kiloelectron volts impinging on a silver film can deliver a high energy density to a relatively small volume: yet the cluster penetrates to a depth of only a few nanometers.
The impact of the beam on the film causes silver atoms in surface peaks to scatter sideways towards valleys, voids and grain boundaries. As well as producing a smoother surface, this processing triples the grain width through the redeposition of atoms at grain boundaries.
The team’s GCIB treatment resulted in up to a four-fold improvement in the electrical and optical properties of films of a thickness of 12 nanometers. “The unique characteristics of GCIB irradiation meant that in a single irradiation step we could reduce scattering losses due to surface roughness, grain boundaries and voids,” notes Teo.
The research team also used the technique to smooth the top surface and sidewalls of lithographically patterned silver-stripe waveguides, increasing the propagation lengths of surface plasmons in these waveguides.
“In the future, we intend to use this technique to improve the colour purity of plasmonic color filters or reflectors, and also to increase the patterned area of superlens nanolithography,” says Teo. “Such developments will bring plasmonic research a step closer to commercialization.”
1. Teo, E. J., Toyoda, N., Yang, C., Wang, B., Zhang, N. et al. Sub-30 nm thick plasmonic films and structures with ultralow loss. Nanoscale 6, 3243–3249 (2014).
Lee Swee Heng | Research SEA News
In borophene, boundaries are no barrier
17.07.2018 | Rice University
Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters
13.07.2018 | Brown University
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
17.07.2018 | Information Technology
17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering