(159a) Suppression of Infrared Absorption in Nanostructured Metals By Controlling Faraday Inductance and Electron Path Length
While metals are widely used for electrodes in many optoelectronic devices, the device efficiency is limited by optical losses due to metals. As thinner devices are desired for reduced cost without sacrificing performance, the metal electrodes can be nanostructured to concentrate light in the photoactive material. A popular approach for the light concentration is to excite surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs). However, in such SPP-based devices, strong metal absorption is a major source of losses. The problem of this parasitic absorption becomes critical when a high device efficiency is desired. Moreover, if the device operates over a broad band as in solar cells, metal absorption needs to be controlled over the whole spectrum of interest and this poses a significant scientific and engineering challenge. Here, we investigate the loss suppression in metal nanocoil structures in the infrared range. Surprisingly, we find that the nanostructured metals can behave almost like a vacuum with a negligible optical loss in the infrared region. The loss is reduced in comparison to flat films by more than an order of magnitude over most of the very broad spectrum between short and long wavelength infrared. Our detailed analysis shows that this suppression of optical losses is due to both a large Faraday inductance and a long electron path. These two factors render the conduction electron in the metal effectively heavier than a hydrogen molecule. To investigate the usefulness of this effect in infrared detectors, we include a photoactive material in the coiled metal structures. In this case, the fraction of absorption in the active material increases by two orders of magnitude compared to non-coiled structures. Moreover, we demonstrate that the coiling of the infrared detector nanostrips increases the photoresponsivity by 15 times without additional electrical losses. These findings could benefit many metal-based applications that require low loss such as photovoltaics, photoconductive detectors, solar selective surfaces, infrared-transparent defrosting windows, and other metamaterials.