Ultrasmooth Patterned Metals for Plasmonics and Metamaterials

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Science  31 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5940, pp. 594-597
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174655

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Perfectly Flat?

Plasmonic devices, which exploit the interactions of light with surface electrons, show great promise for applications in sensing, communications, and energy conversion. A key hindrance is the deposition of patterned metals used for plasmonics, because, as deposited, the terminal surfaces are rough and not amenable to patterning by directional dry-etching techniques. Nagpal et al. (p. 594) use patterned silicon substrates on which they add gold, silver, or copper and then apply an epoxy layer to the deposited metal. When pulled apart, the metal separates from the silicon, where the adhesion is poorer, leaving an ultra-smooth surface. The resulting surface plasmon propagation lengths approach the theoretical values for perfectly flat films.


Surface plasmons are electromagnetic waves that can exist at metal interfaces because of coupling between light and free electrons. Restricted to travel along the interface, these waves can be channeled, concentrated, or otherwise manipulated by surface patterning. However, because surface roughness and other inhomogeneities have so far limited surface-plasmon propagation in real plasmonic devices, simple high-throughput methods are needed to fabricate high-quality patterned metals. We combined template stripping with precisely patterned silicon substrates to obtain ultrasmooth pure metal films with grooves, bumps, pyramids, ridges, and holes. Measured surface-plasmon–propagation lengths on the resulting surfaces approach theoretical values for perfectly flat films. With the use of our method, we demonstrated structures that exhibit Raman scattering enhancements above 107 for sensing applications and multilayer films for optical metamaterials.

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