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Sci Adv. 2017 Sep 22;3(9):e1700688. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1700688. eCollection 2017 Sep.

A customizable class of colloidal-quantum-dot spasers and plasmonic amplifiers.

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Optical Materials Engineering Laboratory, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
Laboratory of Thermodynamics in Emerging Technologies, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.


Colloidal quantum dots are robust, efficient, and tunable emitters now used in lighting, displays, and lasers. Consequently, when the spaser-a laser-like source of high-intensity, narrow-band surface plasmons-was first proposed, quantum dots were specified as the ideal plasmonic gain medium for overcoming the significant intrinsic losses of plasmons. Many subsequent spasers, however, have required a single material to simultaneously provide gain and define the plasmonic cavity, a design unable to accommodate quantum dots and other colloidal nanomaterials. In addition, these and other designs have been ill suited for integration with other elements in a larger plasmonic circuit, limiting their use. We develop a more open architecture that decouples the gain medium from the cavity, leading to a versatile class of quantum dot-based spasers that allow controlled generation, extraction, and manipulation of plasmons. We first create aberration-corrected plasmonic cavities with high quality factors at desired locations on an ultrasmooth silver substrate. We then incorporate quantum dots into these cavities via electrohydrodynamic printing or drop-casting. Photoexcitation under ambient conditions generates monochromatic plasmons (0.65-nm linewidth at 630 nm, Q ~ 1000) above threshold. This signal is extracted, directed through an integrated amplifier, and focused at a nearby nanoscale tip, generating intense electromagnetic fields. More generally, our device platform can be straightforwardly deployed at different wavelengths, size scales, and geometries on large-area plasmonic chips for fundamental studies and applications.

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