Abstract

The confinement of light within nanometer-scale regions may result in the significant enhancement of light–matter interactions. However, light confinement to nanometers is hindered by the diffraction limit of a dielectric material. For a dielectric cavity, if the material loss is negligible, reducing the cavity size usually causes a significantly increase in radiation loss. Surface plasmons show great promise for potential subwavelength light confinement. However, in most circumstances, light confinement by dissipative metallic materials can cause ohmic losses at optical frequencies. In such cases, the realization of light confinement with deep subwavelength mode sizes results in great losses and thus has low quality factors. In the present study, a three-dimensional light confinement with deep subwavelength mode sizes is achieved using dielectric spheres in metal cavities. Contrary to other mechanisms for subwavelength light confinement that are based on the use of dielectric or metal cavities, the nanometer-scale regions ensure that most of the light energy is confined away from the metal-dielectric interfaces, thereby decreasing light absorption in the metal cavity. In turn, the metal cavity decreases the radiation loss of light. Thus, high quality factors ranging from 2×102 to 6×102 can be obtained at room temperature. An effective electrical mode volume ranging from 7×105λ03 to 2×104λ03 (where λ0 is the resonant wavelength in a vacuum) can be achieved. Therefore, this method of three-dimensional light confinement with deep subwavelength mode sizes using dielectric spheres in metal cavities may have potential applications in the design of nanolasers, nanophoton detectors, nonlinear optical switches, and so on.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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