Merging the fields of plasmonics and nonlinear optics authorizes a variety of fascinating and original physical phenomena. In this study, we specifically study the combination of the strong light confinement ability of surface plasmon polaritons (SPP) with the beam self-trapping effect that occur in nonlinear optical Kerr medium. Although this idea of plasmon-soliton has been the subject of several theoretical or numerical articles, no experimental evidence has been revealed yet. One reason is that in the proposed configurations the requested nonlinear refractive index change amplitude to generate a plasmon-soliton is too high to be reached in available material. Another limitation is due to the large propagation losses associated with plasmons. In the present study, a proper architecture has been designed and then fabricated allowing the first experimental observation of hybrid coupling between a spatial optical soliton and a SPP in a metal-Kerr dielectric structure.
To be able to trigger the nonlinearity at moderate light power and simultaneously to allow propagation over several millimetres distance, a metal-dielectric structure was designed. It consists of a four-layer planar geometry made of a transparent Kerr dielectric layer placed on a lower refractive index medium, with on its top surface a thin dielectric layer covered by a metallic film deposited on top. The Kerr medium is a 3µm thick chalcogenide film (Ge28.1Sb6.3Se65.6) with a high refractive index deposited by RF magnetron sputtering on an oxidized silicon substrate. The thickness of the thin SiO2 layer is 10 nm while the top gold layer is 30 nm. Samples are about 5-6 mm along propagation direction (z-axis).
As shown by numerical simulations, the designed planar nonlinear waveguide with its top silica and gold layer supports a fundamental TE mode profile at NIR wavelengths whose transverse profile along y (perpendicular to the layers) is not affected by the metal layer while the TM mode is clearly localized near the SiO2-metal-chalcogenide interfaces due to its plasmonic part. The estimated nonlinear parameter γ of the TM mode is nearly three times larger than the TE one. Consequently, in nonlinear regime an enhanced self-focusing effect is expected for this TM wave. Experiments are performed with a tunable optical parametric oscillator emitting 200 fs pulses at 1.55 µm with a repetition rate of 80 MHz. The experimental analysis consists in injecting a typical 4 × 30 μm2 (FWHM in x-y cross section) elliptical laser beam into the waveguide and monitoring the output beam spatial profile evolution versus light power. Different arrangements are tested that unambiguously reveal the plasmon-soliton coupling. For instance, experiments are conducted with and without the metallic layer and for both TE and TM polarizations. In addition, different positions on the sample of the metal part with several lengths chosen between 0.1 to 2mm are tested. Additional experiments are in progress to analyze the beam evolution with near-field scanning microscopy and simulations of the beam propagation in the full structure are developed to reach a better and fully quantitative description of the observed phenomena.
We present a full study of an improved nonlinear plasmonic slot waveguides (NPSWs) in which buffer linear dielectric layers are added between the Kerr type nonlinear dielectric core and the two semi-infinite metal regions. Our approach computes the stationary solutions using the fixed power algorithm, in which for a given structure the wave power is an input parameter and the outputs are the propagation constant and the corresponding field components. For TM polarized waves, the inclusion of these supplementary layers have two consequences. First, they reduced the overall losses. Secondly, they modify the types of solutions that propagate in the NPSWs adding new profiles enlarging the possibilities offered by these nonlinear waveguides. In addition to the symmetric linear plasmonic profile obtained in the simple plasmonic structure with linear core such that its effective index is above the linear core refractive index, we obtained a new field profile which is more localized in the core with an effective index below the core linear refractive index. In the nonlinear case, if the effective index of the symmetric linear mode is above the core linear refractive index, the mode field profiles now exhibit a spatial transition from a plasmonic type profile to a solitonic type one. Our structure also provides longer propagation length due to the decrease of the losses compared to the simple nonlinear slot waveguide and exhibits, for well-chosen refractive index or thickness of the buffer layer, a spatial transition of its main modes that can be controlled by the power. We provide a full phase diagram of the TM wave operating regimes of these improved NPSWs. The stability of the main TM modes is then demonstrated numerically using the FDTD. We also demonstrate the existence of TE waves for both linear and nonlinear cases (for some configurations) in which the maximum intensity is located in the middle of the waveguide. We indicate the bifurcation of the nonlinear asymmetric TE mode from the symmetric nonlinear one through the Hopf bifurcation. This kind of bifurcation is similar to the ones already obtained in TM case for our improved structure, and also for the simple NPSWs. At high power, above the bifurcation threshold, the fundamental symmetric nonlinear TE mode moves gradually to new nonlinear mode in which the soliton peak displays two peaks in the core. The losses of the TE modes decrease with the power for all the cases. This kind of structures could be fabricated and characterized experimentally due to the realistic parameters chosen to model them.