A numerical analysis of surface plasmon dispersion, propagation, and localization on smooth lossy films is presented. Particular attention is given to determining wavelength-dependent behavior of thin Ag slab waveguides embedded in a symmetric SiO2 environment. Rather than considering Ag as a damped free electron gas, the metal is defined by the experimentally determined optical constants of Johnson and Christy and Palik. As in free electron gas models, analytic dispersion results indicate a splitting of plasmon modes---corresponding to symmetric and antisymmetric field distributions---as film thickness is decreased below 50 nm. However, unlike free electron gas models, the surface plasmon wave vector remains finite at resonance with the antisymmetric-field plasmon converging to a pure photon mode for very thin films. In addition, allowed excitation modes are found to exist between the bound and radiative branches of the dispersion curve. The propagation characteristics of all modes are determined, and for thin films (depending upon electric field symmetry), propagation distances range from microns to centimeters in the near infrared. Propagation distances are correlated with both the field decay (skin depth) and energy density distribution in the metal and surrounding dielectric. While the energy density of most long-range surface plasmons exhibits a broad spatial extent with limited confinement in the waveguide, it is found that high-field confinement does not necessarily limit propagation. In fact, enhanced propagation is observed for silver films at ultraviolet wavelengths despite strong field localization in the metal. The surface plasmon characteristics described in this paper provide a numerical springboard for engineering nanoscale metal plasmon waveguides, and the results may provide a new avenue for integrated optoelectronic applications.

Phys. Rev. B
Photonic Materials

Dionne, J., Sweatlock, L. A., Atwater, H., & Polman, A. (2005). Planar metal plasmon waveguides: frequency-dependent dispersion, propagation, localization, and loss beyond the free electron model. Phys. Rev. B, 72(7, Article number: 75405), 1–11. doi:10.1103/physrevb.72.075405