Ultrafast optical switching in three-dimensional photonic crystals
- Publisher: Utrecht University
The rapidly expanding research on photonic crystals is driven by potential applications in all-optical switches, optical computers, low-threshold lasers, and holographic data storage. The performance of such devices might surpass the speed of traditional electronics by several orders of magnitude and may result in a true revolution in nanotechnology. The heart of such devices would likely be an optical switching element. This thesis analyzes different regimes of ultrafast all-optical switching in various three-dimensional photonic crystals, in particular opals filled with silicon or vanadium dioxide and periodic arrays of silica-gold core-shell spherical particles with silica outer shell. In the experiment an ultrashort optical pulse is used to excite a photonic crystal and change its complex effective dielectric constant. The change in the imaginary part of the dielectric constant corresponds to the change in absorption that suppresses interference inside the photonic crystal and modifies the amplitude of the reflectivity, while the change in the real part of the dielectric constant accounts for a shift in a spectral position of the photonic stop band. The first type of switching is shown on an example of an opal filled with silicon. In this crystal, switching is induced by photo-excited carriers in silicon that act as an electron plasma and increase the absorption in silicon. Within 30 fs constructive interference inside the opal vanishes and Bragg reflectivity drops down. Changes in reflectivity reach values as high as 46% at maximum excitation power. The experimental results are in a good agreement with calculations. The second type of switching is demonstrated in opal filled with vanadium dioxide. Here, the optical switching is driven by a photoinduced phase transition of vanadium dioxide. The phase transition takes place on a subpicosecond time scale and changes the effective dielectric constant of the opal. As a result, the spectral position of the photonic stop band shifts to the blue leading to large (up to 35%) changes in the reflectivity. Metallo-dielectric photonic crystals give even more possibilities for the band-tuning, since in addition to the resonance for light they posses surface plasmon resonances. The interplay of these resonances leads to unusual optical phenomena. As an example, reflected light produces an unexpected beaming in the apexes of a hexagon with a divergence angle of 8, in our sample. This angle is too small to be attributed to a simple diffraction on the periodic lattice of core-shells but can be explained by interference between surface plasmons and propagating surface waves. Time-resolved spectra demonstrate rapid changes immediately after the arrival of the pump pulse. Ultrafast reflection changes are dramatically enhanced by the plasmon resonances, and can reach values as high as 35%. A completely different mechanism for ultrafast switching is explored, based on the excitation of coherent acoustic radial vibrations of the gold spheres. This results in a 4% modulation of the reflectivity on a subnanosecond timescale. The observed oscillation properties of our gold-shell spheres are in excellent agreement with the calculations. The described results show that the demonstrated dynamical changes in the reflectivity of a three-dimensional photonic crystal can be made both large and ultrafast and therefore may prove to be relevant for future applications.