Reflecting upon the losses in plasmonics and metamaterials

Jacob B. Khurgin, Johns Hopkins University
Alexandra Boltasseva, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version



Jacob B. Khurgin and Alexandra Boltasseva. MRS Bulletin, Volume 37, Issue 8 (Plasmonics) August 2012, pp. 768-779


Plasmonics aims at combining features of photonics and electronics by coupling photons with a free-electron gas, whose subwavelength oscillations (surface plasmons) enable manipulation of light at the nanoscale and engender the exciting properties of optical metamaterials. Plasmonics is facing a grand challenge of overcoming metal losses impeding its progress. We reflect on the reasons why subwavelength confinement and loss are intimately intertwined and investigate the physics of loss in conductors beyond the conventional Drude model. We suggest that commonly used noble metals may not be the best materials for plasmonics and describe alternate materials such as transparent conducting oxides and transition metal nitrides. We consider the prospects of compensating the loss with gain materials and conclude that the so-far elusive solution to the loss obstacle lies in finding better materials with lower losses.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology