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ACS Nano. 2012 Feb 28;6(2):1766-75. doi: 10.1021/nn204780e. Epub 2012 Jan 13.

Quantum finite-size effects in graphene plasmons.

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IQFR-CSIC, Serrano 119, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


Graphene plasmons are emerging as an alternative solution to noble metal plasmons, adding the advantages of tunability via electrostatic doping and long lifetimes. These excitations have been so far described using classical electrodynamics, with the carbon layer represented by a local conductivity. However, the question remains, how accurately is such a classical description representing graphene? What is the minimum size for which nonlocal and quantum finite-size effects can be ignored in the plasmons of small graphene structures? Here, we provide a clear answer to these questions by performing first-principles calculations of the optical response of doped nanostructured graphene obtained from a tight-binding model for the electronic structure and the random-phase approximation for the dielectric response. The resulting plasmon energies are in good agreement with classical local electromagnetic theory down to ∼10 nm sizes, below which plasmons split into several resonances that emphasize the molecular character of the carbon structures and the quantum nature of their optical excitations. Additionally, finite-size effects produce substantial plasmon broadening compared to homogeneous graphene up to sizes well above 20 nm in nanodisks and 10 nm in nanoribbons. The atomic structure of edge terminations is shown to be critical, with zigzag edges contributing to plasmon broadening significantly more than armchair edges. This study demonstrates the ability of graphene nanostructures to host well-defined plasmons down to sizes below 10 nm, and it delineates a roadmap for understanding their main characteristics, including the role of finite size and nonlocality, thus providing a solid background for the emerging field of graphene nanoplasmonics.

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