The field of plasmonics promises to revolutionize computing by using coupled optical-electronic excitations to speed up logical operations by many orders of magnitude. While researchers have become skilled at manipulating plasmons, generating them efficiently and coupling them to devices remain a challenge. In this Optics Express
article, Cazier et al. showcase a device that generates plasmons by applying a potential across a metallic tunneling junction. As electrons tunnel across this nanoscopic gap, light is generated. The junction is built on a plasmonic waveguide, allowing some of the light to couple to plasmonic modes. The authors show experimentally that plasmons are indeed generated in this configuration, and suggest that they could in principle be used for computing on the same chip. Significantly, their device is relatively simple to fabricate, in particular not requiring focused-ion-beam lithography. The broad spectrum of plasmonic energies that the device is able to produce could be used in a wide variety of applications.
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