Directional Excitation of Surface Plasmon Polaritons via Molecular Through-Bond Tunneling across Double-Barrier Tunnel Junctions

Wei Du, Yingmei Han, Hongting Hu, Hong-Son Chu, Harshini V. Annadata, Nikodem Tomczak, Christian A. Nijhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Directional excitation of surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) by electrical means is important for the integration of plasmonics with molecular electronics or steering signals toward other components. We report electrically driven SPP sources based on quantum mechanical tunneling across molecular double-barrier junctions, where the tunneling pathway is defined by the molecules’ chemical structure as well as by their tilt angle with respect to the surface normal. Self-assembled monolayers of S(CH2)nBPh (BPh = biphenyl, n = 1–7) on Au, where the alkyl chain and the BPh units define two distinct tunnel barriers in series, were used to demonstrate and control the geometrical effects. The tilt angle of the BPh unit with respect to the surface normal depends on the value of n, and is 45° when n is even and 23° when n is odd. The tilt angle of the alkyl chain is fixed at 30° and independent of n. For values of n = 1–3, SPPs are directionally launched via directional tunneling through the BPh units. For values of n > 3, tunneling along the alkyl chain dominates the SPP excitation. Molecular level control of directionally launching SPPs is achieved without requiring additional on-chip optical elements, such as antennas, or external elements, such as light sources. Using the molecular tunneling junctions, we provide the first direct experimental demonstration of molecular double-barrier tunneling junctions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4634-4640
JournalNano letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Molecular junction
  • surface plasmon
  • tunneling
  • double barrier
  • tilt angle

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