Revealing the subfemtosecond dynamics of orbital angular momentum in nanoplasmonic vortices

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Science  17 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6330, pp. 1187-1191
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj1699

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Putting plasmons in a spin

The ability of light to carry angular momentum provides an additional degree of freedom for applications such as optical tweezing and optical communication. Spektor et al. show that the optical angular momentum modes of light can be shrunk down to the nanometer scale through plasmonic transfer. They patterned spiral-like structures into an atomically smooth layer of gold, which allowed them to launch plasmons with controlled amounts of angular momentum.

Science, this issue p. 1187


The ability of light to carry and deliver orbital angular momentum (OAM) in the form of optical vortices has attracted much interest. The physical properties of light with a helical wavefront can be confined onto two-dimensional surfaces with subwavelength dimensions in the form of plasmonic vortices, opening avenues for thus far unknown light-matter interactions. Because of their extreme rotational velocity, the ultrafast dynamics of such vortices remained unexplored. Here we show the detailed spatiotemporal evolution of nanovortices using time-resolved two-photon photoemission electron microscopy. We observe both long- and short-range plasmonic vortices confined to deep subwavelength dimensions on the scale of 100 nanometers with nanometer spatial resolution and subfemtosecond time-step resolution. Finally, by measuring the angular velocity of the vortex, we directly extract the OAM magnitude of light.

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