In this article, spectroscopic ellipsometry studies of plasmon resonances at metal–dielectric interfaces of thin films are reviewed. We show how ellipsometry provides valuable non-invasive amplitude and phase information from which one can determine the effective dielectric functions, and how these relate to the material nanostructure and define exactly the plasmonic characteristics of the system. There are three related plasmons that are observable using spectroscopic ellipsometry; volume plasmon resonances, surface plasmon polaritons and particle plasmon resonances. We demonstrate that the established method of exploiting surface plasmon polaritons for chemical and biological sensing may be enhanced using the ellipsometric phase information and provide a comprehensive theoretical basis for the technique. We show how the particle and volume plasmon resonances in the ellipsometric spectra of nanoparticle films are directly related to size, surface coverage and constituent dielectric functions of the nanoparticles. The regularly observed splitting of the particle plasmon resonance is theoretically described using modified effective medium theories within the framework of ellipsometry. We demonstrate the wealth of information available from real-time in situ spectroscopic ellipsometry measurements of metal film deposition, including the evolution of the plasmon resonances and percolation events. Finally, we discuss how generalized and Mueller matrix ellipsometry hold great potential for characterizing plasmonic metamaterials and sub-wavelength hole arrays.
- Dielectric function