Programmable hyperbolic polaritons in van der Waals semiconductors

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Science  05 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6529, pp. 617-620
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe9163

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Lighting a route for hyperbolic dispersion

The propagation of light within a material is usually well defined, with the propagation described by scattering and dispersion. In artificially designed metamaterials and in anisotropic layered materials, the dispersion can be hyperbolic, giving rise to subwavelength confinement of the light. Sternbach et al. show that the hyperbolic dispersion can be optically switched on and off on demand in the layered transition metal dichalcogenide tungsten diselenide (see the Perspective by Deng and Chen). Illuminating the material with ultrafast pulses of sub-bandgap light creates a transient waveguide, resulting in hyperbolic dispersion in the material. The ability to tune the dispersion characteristics on demand using optical pumping is an effective approach for developing ultrafast switching photonic devices and controlling the propagation of light on the nanoscale.

Science, this issue p. 617; see also p. 572


Collective electronic modes or lattice vibrations usually prohibit propagation of electromagnetic radiation through the bulk of common materials over a frequency range associated with these oscillations. However, this textbook tenet does not necessarily apply to layered crystals. Highly anisotropic materials often display nonintuitive optical properties and can permit propagation of subdiffractional waveguide modes, with hyperbolic dispersion, throughout their bulk. Here, we report on the observation of optically induced electronic hyperbolicity in the layered transition metal dichalcogenide tungsten diselenide (WSe2). We used photoexcitation to inject electron-hole pairs in WSe2 and then visualized, by transient nanoimaging, the hyperbolic rays that traveled along conical trajectories inside of the crystal. We establish here the signatures of programmable hyperbolic electrodynamics and assess the role of quantum transitions of excitons within the Rydberg series in the observed polaritonic response.

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