Engineering the Outcoupling Pathways in Plasmonic Tunnel Junctions via Photonic Mode Dispersion for Low-Loss Waveguiding

Zhe Wang, Vijith Kalathingal*, Goki Eda, Christian A. Nijhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Outcoupling of plasmonic modes excited by inelastic electron tunneling (IET) across plasmonic tunnel junctions (TJs) has attracted significant attention due to low operating voltages and fast excitation rates. Achieving selectivity among various outcoupling channels, however, remains a challenging task. Employing nanoscale antennas to enhance the local density of optical states (LDOS) associated with specific outcoupling channels partially addressed the problem, along with the integration of conducting 2D materials into TJs, improving the outcoupling to guided modes with particular momentum. The disadvantage of such methods is that they often involve complex fabrication steps and lack fine-tuning options. Here, we propose an alternative approach by modifying the dielectric medium surrounding TJs. By employing a simple multilayer substrate with a specific permittivity combination for the TJs under study, we show that it is possible to optimize mode selectivity in outcoupling to a plasmonic or a photonic-like mode characterized by distinct cutoff behaviors and propagation length. Theoretical and experimental results obtained with a SiO2-SiN-glass multilayer substrate demonstrate high relative coupling efficiencies of (62.77 ± 1.74)% and (29.07 ± 0.72)% for plasmonic and photonic-like modes, respectively. The figure-of-merit, which quantifies the tradeoff between mode outcoupling and propagation lengths (tens of μm) for both modes, can reach values as high as 180 and 140. The demonstrated approach allows LDOS engineering and customized TJ device performance, which are seamlessly integrated with standard thin film fabrication protocols. Our experimental device is well-suited for integration with silicon nitride photonics platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149–1156
Number of pages8
JournalACS nano
Issue number1
Early online date26 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024


  • inelastic electron tunneling
  • multilayer substrate
  • Optical and plasmonic outcoupling
  • silicon nitride photonics
  • tunnel junctions
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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