Controlling the Infrared Dielectric Function through Atomic-Scale Heterostructures
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Surface phonon polaritons (SPhPs), the surface-bound electromagnetic modes of a polar material resulting from the coupling of light with optic phonons, offer immense technological opportunities for nanophotonics in the infrared (IR) spectral region. However, once a particular material is chosen, the SPhP characteristics are fixed by the spectral positions of the optic phonon frequencies. Here, we provide a demonstration of how the frequency of these optic phonons can be altered by employing atomic-scale superlattices (SLs) of polar semiconductors using AlN/GaN SLs as an example. Using second harmonic generation (SHG) spectroscopy, we show that the optic phonon frequencies of the SLs exhibit a strong dependence on the layer thicknesses of the constituent materials. Furthermore, new vibrational modes emerge that are confined to the layers, while others are centered at the AlN/GaN interfaces. As the IR dielectric function is governed by the optic phonon behavior in polar materials, controlling the optic phonons provides a means to induce and potentially design a dielectric function distinct from the constituent materials and from the effective-medium approximation of the SL. We show that atomic-scale AlN/GaN SLs instead have multiple Reststrahlen bands featuring spectral regions that exhibit either normal or extreme hyperbolic dispersion with both positive and negative permittivities dispersing rapidly with frequency. Apart from the ability to engineer the SPhP properties, SL structures may also lead to multifunctional devices that combine the mechanical, electrical, thermal, or optoelectronic functionality of the constituent layers. We propose that this effort is another step toward realizing user-defined, actively tunable IR optics and sources.
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