Sub-nanometer Thin Oxide Film Sensing with Localized Surface Phonon Polaritons

Rodrigo Berte, Christopher R. Gubbin, Virginia D. Wheeler, Alexander J. Giles, Vincenzo Giannini, Stefan A. Maier, Simone De Liberato, Joshua D. Caldwell

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Chemical sensing methods based on surface polaritonic resonances stem from their intense near fields and resultant sensitivity to changes in local refractive index. Polar dielectric crystals (e.g., SiC, hBN) support surface phonon polaritons (SPhPs) from the mid-infrared to terahertz range with mode volumes and quality factors exceeding the best case scenario attained by plasmonic counterparts, making them strong candidates for resonant surface-enhanced infrared spectroscopy. We report on the behavior of SPhP resonances of SiC nanopillars following the incorporation of sub-nano- and nanometric coatings of Al2O3 and ZrO2 obtained by atomic layer deposition. Concurrent anomalous red- and blue-shifts of SPhP resonances were observed upon deposition of sub-nanometric Al2O3 films, with shift direction dictated by the mode position relative to the ordinary longitudinal optic phonon of Al2O3. These concurrent shifts, which are attributed to coupling to the Berreman mode of the Al2O3 layer, persist for thicker films and are correctly predicted by numerical calculations employing the measured Al2O3 permittivity. Deposition of ZrO2, whose phonon resonances are detuned from the SPhPs, also led to anomalous blue-shifts of transverse and longitudinal SPhP resonances around 900 cm-1 for films up to ∼1.5 nm, reversing to the canonical red-shift for thicker layers. These anomalous shifts were not reproduced numerically using the measured ZrO2 permittivity and suggest the existence of a localized surface state, which when modeled as a simple Lorentz oscillator, provides semiquantitative agreement with experimental results. In addition, predicted shifts for thicker ZrO2 layers may thus provide a tool for real-time monitoring of ultrathin film growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2807-2815
Number of pages9
JournalACS Photonics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • AlO
  • atomic layer deposition
  • chemical sensing
  • oxides
  • surface phonon polaritons
  • ZrO

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