Reconfigurable phase-change optical metasurfaces: novel design concepts to practicable devices
Ruiz De Galarreta Fanjul, C
Date: 23 March 2020
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Physics/Engineering
Optical metasurfaces have been proven to be capable of controlling amplitude, phase and polarization of optical beams without the need of bulky geometries, making them really attractive for the development of compact photonic devices. Recently, their combination with chalcogenide phase-change materials (traditionally employed in ...
Optical metasurfaces have been proven to be capable of controlling amplitude, phase and polarization of optical beams without the need of bulky geometries, making them really attractive for the development of compact photonic devices. Recently, their combination with chalcogenide phase-change materials (traditionally employed in non-volatile optical and electrical memories), whose refractive index can be reversibly and repeatedly controlled, has been proposed to yield low power consumption tunable metasurfaces having several functionalities in a single device. However, despite phase-change memories are commercially available since various decades now, the unification of phase-change materials with metasurfaces towards real life applications is becoming a formidable task, mainly due to the several engineering branches involved in this technology, which sometimes compromise each other in a non-trivial way. This includes thermo/optical, thermo/electric, and chemical incompatibilities which are typically not taken into account by researchers working in the field, resulting in devices having exciting reconfigurable properties, but at the same time, lack of practicability. This thesis is therefore dedicated to the development of novel phase-change metasurface architectures which could partially or totally address such engineering problems. Particular emphasis has been put in the realization of reconfigurable metasurfaces for active wavefront control, as such a functionality remains relatively unexplored. The first part of this thesis focuses in the first experimental demonstration of active, reconfigurable non-mechanical beam steering devices working the near-infrared. This was achieved via integration of ultra-thin films of chalcogenide phase-change materials (in this case, the widely employed alloy Ge2Sb2Te5) within the body of a dielectric spacer in a plasmonic metal/insulator/metal metasurface architecture. Active, and optically reversible beam steering between two different angles with efficiencies up to 40% were demonstrated. The second part of this work shows the work carried out in metal-free metasurfaces as a way to manipulate optical beams with high efficiency in both transmission and/or reflection. This was achieved via combination of all-dielectric silicon nanocylinders with deeply-subwavelenght sized Ge2Sb2Te5 inclusions. By strategic placement of the phase-change inclusions in the regions of high electric field density, independent and active control of the metasuface resonances is demonstrated, with modulations depths as high as 70% and 65% in reflection and transmission respectively. Multilevel, and fully reversible optically-induced switching of the phasechange layer is also reported, with up to 11 levels of tunability over 8 switching cycles. Finally, the last section of this thesis introduces the concept of hybrid dielectric/plasmonic phase-change metasurfaces having key functional benefits when compared to both purely dielectric and plasmonic approaches. The proposed architectures showed great versatility in terms of both active amplitude and phase control, offering the possibility of designing devices for different purposes (i.e. such as active absorbers/modulators or beam steerers with enhanced efficiency) employing the same unit-cell configuration with minor geometry re-optimizations. Initial device experimental demonstrations of such an approach are discussed, as well as their potential in terms of delivering in-situ electrical switching capabilities using a metallic ground plane as a resistive heater.
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