Controlling infrared radiation with subwavelength metamaterials and silicon carbide

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2011-05

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Neuner, Burton Hamilton

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Abstract

The control and manipulation of infrared (IR) radiation beyond the capabilities of natural materials using silicon carbide (SiC), metamaterials, or a combination thereof, is presented. Control is first demonstrated using SiC, a polar crystal that exhibits a dielectric permittivity less than zero in the mid-IR range, through the excitation of tightly confined surface phonon-polaritons (SPPs), thus enabling a multitude of applications not possible with conventional dielectrics. Optimal, or critical coupling to SPPs is explored in SiC films through Otto-configuration attenuated total reflection. One practical application based on Otto-coupled SPPs is presented: IR refractive index sensing is shown for three pL-scale fluid analytes. It is then demonstrated that when two SiC films are brought to a few-micron separation, IR radiation can excite surface modes that possess phase velocities near the speed of light, a property required for efficient table-top particle accelerators. Metamaterials are engineered with subwavelength structure and possess optical properties not found in nature. Two such metamaterials will be introduced: metal films perforated with arrays of rectangular holes display the ability to control IR light polarization through spoof surface plasmon excitation, and metal/dielectric multilayers patterned with subwavelength-pitch corrugations display frequency-tunable, wide-angle, perfect IR absorption. Two experiments, which have implications in polarization control and thermal emission, combine the benefits of SiC with those of metamaterials: extraordinary optical transmission and absorption are observed in SiC hole arrays, and the design of individual SiC antennas permits the control of the bulk metamaterial responses of impedance and absorption/emission. Finally, a new optical beamline based on Fourier transform IR spectroscopy was designed, built, characterized, and implemented, serving as the major experimental objective of this dissertation. The novel beamline, which confines radiation to a 200-micron diameter and enables angle-dependent IR spectroscopy, was verified using multiple metamaterial structures.

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