Graphene and van der Waals Materials

van der Waals (vdW) materials consist of individual atomic planes bonded by weak vdW attraction. These material display nearly all electronic and optical phenomena found in solids, including plasmonic oscillations of free electrons characteristic of metals, light emission/lasing and excitons encountered in semiconductors, and intense phonon resonances typical of insulators. These phenomena are embodied in confined light-matter hybrid modes termed polaritons—excitations of polarizable media, which are classified according to the origin of the polarization. The most studied varieties are plasmon, phonon, and exciton polaritons. In vdW materials, polaritons exhibit extraordinary properties that are directly affected by dimensionality and topology, as revealed by state-of-the-art imaging of polaritonic waves. vdW heterostructures provide unprecedented control over the polaritonic response, enabling new quantum phenomena and nanophotonics applications that we systematically investigate by means of a variety of nano-optical techniques developed in our laboratory. In collaboration with M.Fogler (UCSD).

Recent reviews: [232], [194]

Polaritons in van der Waals materials
Basov, Fogler and Abajo Science 354, 195 (2016). Article [232]

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picture71Interfaces of van der Waals materials sustain hybrid light-matter modes involving collective oscillations of polarization charges in matter, hence the term polaritons. Surface plasmon polaritons, supported by electrons in metals, constitute a most-studied prominent example. Yet there are many other varieties of polaritons, including those formed by atomic vibrations in polar insulators, excitons in semiconductors, Cooper pairs in superconductors, and spin resonances in (anti) ferromagnets. Together, they span a broad region of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from microwave to ultraviolet wavelengths.

Ultrafast optical switching of infrared plasmon polaritons in high-mobility graphene
Ni et al. Nature Photonics 10, 244 (2016). Article [225]

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pic6Graphene is emerging as one of the most capable candidates for plasmonic media for infrared wavelengths. Here we visualize and elucidate the properties of non-equilibrium photo-induced plasmons in a high-mobility graphene monolayer4.We activate plasmons with femtosecond optical pulses in a specimen of graphene that otherwise lacks infrared plasmonic response at equilibrium. In combination with static nano-imaging results on plasmon propagation, our infrared pump–probe nano-spectroscopy investigation reveals new aspects of carrier relaxation in heterostructures based on high-purity graphene.

Plasmons in graphene moiré superlattices
Ni et al. Nature Materials 14, 1217 (2015) . Article [215]

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picture72Moiré patterns are superlattice structures that appear when two crystals with a minor lattice mismatch are superimposed. A prominent recent example is that of monolayer graphene placed on a crystal of hexagonal boron nitride. To probe the dynamical response of the moiré graphene, we use infrared (IR) nano-imaging to explore propagation of surface plasmons, collective oscillations of electrons coupled to IR light. We show that interband transitions associated with the superlattice mini-bands in concert with free electrons in the Dirac bands produce two additive contributions to composite IR plasmons in graphene moiré superstructures.

Tunable Phonon Polaritons in Atomically Thin van der Waals Crystals of Boron Nitride
Dai et al. Science 343, 1125 (2014).  Article [187]

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Article [187]

picture73van der Waals heterostructures assembled from atomically thin crystalline layers of diverse two-dimensional solids are emerging as a new paradigm in the physics of materials. We used infrared nanoimaging to study the properties of surface phonon polaritons in a representative van der Waals crystal, hexagonal boron nitride. We launched, detected, and imaged the polaritonic waves in real space and altered their wavelength by varying the number of crystal layers in our specimens. The measured dispersion of polaritonic waves was shown to be governed by the crystal thickness according to a scaling law that persists down to a few atomic layers. Our results are likely to hold true in other polar van der Waals crystals and may lead to new unctionalities.