Research Article

Spatiotemporal imaging of 2D polariton wave packet dynamics using free electrons

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Science  11 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6547, pp. 1181-1186
DOI: 10.1126/science.abg9015

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Imaging polariton dynamics

Two-dimensional (2D) materials can confine light to volumes much shorter than the wavelength, and, together, the long propagation lengths make them attractive materials for developing nanophotonic platforms. Characterizing the spatiotemporal control of 2D polariton wave packets has been hindered for the same reasons that make their potential applications exciting: They have extremely small wavelengths and are strongly confined inside the material. Kurman et al. developed a new pump-probe technique based on electron emission that provides access to the spatiotemporal dynamics of 2D polaritons. The nanometric spatial resolution and femtosecond temporal resolution will be useful for probing the excitation dynamics of these materials.

Science, abg9015, this issue p. 1181


Coherent optical excitations in two-dimensional (2D) materials, 2D polaritons, can generate a plethora of optical phenomena that arise from the extraordinary dispersion relations that do not exist in regular materials. Probing of the dynamical phenomena of 2D polaritons requires simultaneous spatial and temporal imaging capabilities and could reveal unknown coherent optical phenomena in 2D materials. Here, we present a spatiotemporal measurement of 2D wave packet dynamics, from its formation to its decay, using an ultrafast transmission electron microscope driven by femtosecond midinfrared pulses. The ability to coherently excite phonon-polariton wave packets and probe their evolution in a nondestructive manner reveals intriguing dispersion-dependent dynamics that includes splitting of multibranch wave packets and, unexpectedly, wave packet deceleration and acceleration. Having access to the full spatiotemporal dynamics of 2D wave packets can be used to illuminate puzzles in topological polaritons and discover exotic nonlinear optical phenomena in 2D materials.

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