Abstract

We theoretically investigate planar heterostructures for subwavelength guiding of surface plasmon modes and optimize their design to enhance the waveguiding efficiency. We show that by appropriately selecting the thicknesses of metallic and dielectric layers of a two-layer waveguide, one can compensate the intrinsic damping of the mode by having minimal optical gain in the dielectric region. We also reveal that mode confinement can be significantly improved by the use of an additional metal layer adjacent to the dielectric, to form a metal–dielectric–metal (MDM) structure. By varying the layer thicknesses in the MDM waveguide, we demonstrate that the propagation length of the plasmonic mode can be maximized. We further show that the losses may be suppressed by minimal gain in the dielectric region by the careful choice of geometrical parameters. We note that the associated gain levels are relatively small; for example, the losses in a 300 nm thick Ag–ZnO–Ag waveguide can be compensated by a gain of 225cm1. Our results may prove useful for the realization of efficient optical interconnects in high-density nanophotonic circuity.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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