How to manipulate light on the nanoscale over wide frequency ranges

An international team led by researchers from the University of Oviedo and the Centre for Research in Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology (CINN-CSIC), together with scientist from the Basque research centers CIC nanoGUNE, Donostia Internatioanl Physics Center (DIPC), Materials Physics Center (CSIC-UPV/EHU), and international collaborators from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Case Western Reserve University (USA), Austrian Institute of Technology, Paris Materials Centre, and University of Tokyo has discovered an effective method for controlling the frequency of confined light at the nanoscale. The results were recently published in Nature Materials.

Research with nanolight (one hundred times smaller than the thickness of a human hair) has developed considerably in recent years thanks to the use of sheet-structured nanomaterials such as graphene, boron nitride or molybdenum trioxide: the so-called van der Waals materials.

One of the main drawbacks to the technological applications of this nanolight is the limited frequency ranges characteristic of each material. But now, an international team has proposed a novel method that allows to widely extend this range of working frequencies of polaritons in van der Waals materials. The method consists in the intercalation of alkaline and alkaline earth atoms, such as sodium, calcium or lithium, in the laminar structure of the van der Waals vanadium pentaoxide material, thus allowing to modify its atomic bonds and consequently its optical properties.

Considering that a large variety of ions and ion contents can be intercalated in layered materials, on-demand spectral response of phonon polaritons in van der Waals materials can be expected, eventually covering the whole mid-infrared range, something critical for the emerging field of phonon polariton photonics.

The finding, published in the journal Nature Materials, will allow progress in the development of compact photonic technologies, such as high-sensitivity biological sensors or information and communication technologies at the nanoscale.


Javier Taboada-Gutiérrez, Gonzalo Álvarez-Pérez, Jiahua Duan, Weiliang Ma, Kyle Crowley, Iván Prieto, Andrei Bylinkin, Marta Autore, Halyna Volkova, Kenta Kimura, Tsuyoshi Kimura, M.-H. Berger, Shaojuan Li, Qiaoliang Bao, Xuan P. A. Gao, Ion Errea, Alexey Y. Nikitin, Rainer Hillenbrand, Javier Martín-Sánchez and Pablo Alonso-González

Broad spectral tuning of ultra-low-loss polaritons in a van der Waals crystal by intercalation

Nature Materials, 2020.

DOI: 10.1038/s41563-020-0665-0