We report an experimental study of long-range surface plasmon polaritons propagating along metallic wires of sub-micrometer rectangular cross-sections (nanowires) embedded in a dielectric. At telecom wavelengths, optical signals are shown to propagate up to several millimeters along such nanowires. As the wires approach a square cross-section, the guided mode becomes more symmetric and can, for example, be tuned to match closely the mode of a standard single-mode optical fiber. Furthermore, symmetric nanowires are shown to guide both TM and TE polarizations. In order to illustrate the applicability of plasmonic nanowire waveguides to optical circuits, we demonstrate a compact variable optical attenuator consisting of a single nanowire that simultaneously carries light and electrical current.
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