Nano-scale imaging and spectroscopy of plasmonic systems, thermal near-fields, and phase separation in complex oxides.
Jones, Andrew Crandall
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Optical spectroscopy represents a powerful characterization technique with the ability to directly interact with the electronic, spin, and lattice excitations in matter. In addition, through implementation of ultrafast techniques, further insight into the real-time dynamics of elementary interactions can be gained. However, the resolution of far-field microscopy techniques is restricted by the diffraction limit setting a spatial resolution limit in the 100s nm to micron range for visible and IR light, respectively. This resolution is too coarse for the characterization of mesoscopic phenomena in condensed matter physics. The development of experimental techniques with nanoscale resolution and sensitivity to optical fields has been a long standing obstacle to the characterization of condensed matter systems on their natural length scales. This dissertation focuses on the fundamental near-field optical properties of surfaces and nanoscale systems as well as the utilization of nano-optical techniques, specifically apertureless scattering-type Scanning Near-field Optical Microscopy (s-SNOM), to characterize said optical properties with nanometer scale resolution. First, the s-SNOM characterization of the field enhancement associated with the localized surface plasmon resonances on metallic structures is discussed. With their ability to localize light, plasmonic nano-structures are promising candidate systems to serve as molecular sensors and nano-photonic devices; however, it is well known that particle morphology and the plasmon resonance alone do not uniquely reflect the details of the local field distribution. Here, I demonstrate the use interferometric s-SNOM for imaging of the near-fields associated with plasmonic resonances of crystalline triangular silver nano-prisms in the visible spectral range. I subsequently show the extension of the concept of a localized plasmon into the mid-IR spectral range with the characterization of near-fields of silver nano-rods. Strong spatial field variation on lengths scales as short as 20 nm is observed associated with the dipolar and quadrupolar modes of both systems with details sensitively depending on the nanoparticle structure and environment. In light of recent publications predicting distinct spectral characteristics of thermal electromagnetic near-fields, I demonstrate the extension of s-SNOM techniques through the implementation of a heated atomic force microscope (AFM) tip acting as its own intrinsic light source for the characterization of thermal near-fields. Here, I detail the spectrally distinct and orders of magnitude enhanced resonant spectral near-field energy density associated with vibrational, phonon, and phonon-polariton modes. Modeling the thermal light scattering by the AFM, the scattering cross-section for thermal light may be related to the electromagnetic local density of states (EM-LDOS) above a surface. Lastly, the unique capability of s-SNOM techniques to characterize phase separation phenomena in correlated electron systems is discussed. This measurement capability provides new microscopic insight into the underlying mechanisms of the rich phase transition behavior exhibited by these materials. As a specific example, the infrared s-SNOM mapping of the metal-insulator transition and the associated nano-domain formation in individual VO2 micro-crystals subject to substrate stress is presented. Our results have important implications for the interpretation of the investigations of conventional polycrystalline thin films where the mutual interaction of constituent crystallites may affect the nature of phase separation processes.
- Physics