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  • Abstract
The range of the allowable ${rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ for the surface modes guided by the interface between ametal material and a uniaxially anisotropic dielectric material with $n_{e} > n_{o}$, as depicted in the inset.



The phenomenon of the surface plasmon polariton (SPP) at an interface between metal and isotropic dielectric material has been well known and exploited to achieve different applications [1], [2]. In this paper, we consider the SPP solution of the more complicated situation that the isotropic dielectric is replaced by a uniaxially anisotropic dielectric material and a new leaky mode solution will be presented. The characteristic equation for this solution is basically that derived by Dyakonov in 1988 when predicting the existence of a new type of surface wave at an interface between an isotropic dielectric material and a uniaxial-birefringent dielectric material with its optic axis falling in the plane of the interface [3], which was called the Dyakonov wave [4], [5], [6]. Related phenomena involving different materials have been continuously investigated [5]. A more recent related work was that Li et al. numerically studied surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) at the interface between a metal and a uniaxial crystal [7]. In these studies, only surface modes with the field amplitudes decaying away from the interface in the pure exponential manner were mostly concerned, i.e., the modes are of no loss, and such solutions might exist only in some angular regime of the optic axis. An earlier work by Avrutsky [8] presented an algorithm for solving guided modes in a multilayer uniaxial structure and gave several numerical examples including a single interface case between gold and the uniaxial lithium-niobate material at infrared wavelength. In this paper, we first provide possible leaky-mode solutions in addition to the pure guided modes based on solving suitable characteristic equations, and then consider the practical situation that the metal is lossy. These analytical solutions are shown to excellently agree with a finite-element (FE) eigenmode analysis.

Recent researches related to SPPs involving anisotropic dielectrics include the following studies. Nagaraj and Krokhin investigated long-range SPPs in dielectric-metal-dielectric structure with anisotropic substrates [9], but only transverse magnetic (TM) waves for the case of the optic axis perpendicular to the plane of the interface were considered. Liscidini and Sipe conducted a theoretical study of SPPs in a configuration in which a metal layer is on top of an anisotropic dielectric [10] and discovered the existence of quasiguided SPPs with numerical demonstration of the coupling of a TM-polarized incident beam to such SPP in the Kretschmann configuration at surface plasmon resonance. The leaky-mode solutions presented in this paper are related to the aforementioned quasiguided SPPs. We nevertheless can provide the complete mode-field characteristics and dispersion curves for such modes using standard waveguide mode analysis. The analytical modal analysis is described in Section 2, numerical results are presented in Section 3, and the conclusion is given in Section 4.



The inset in Fig. 1 shows the structure and coordinate systems for this study: an interface (the Formula$x = 0$ plane) between the metal material Formula$(x\ <\ 0)$ and the uniaxially anisotropic material Formula$(x\ >\ 0)$. We consider surface wave modes propagating in the Formula$z$ direction and guided by this interface. As shown in this inset, the optic-axis orientation is described by the spherical-coordinate angles Formula$\phi$ and Formula$\theta$. The index of refraction of the metal material is denoted as Formula$n_{m}$ and the ordinary and extraordinary indices of refraction of the uniaxial material are denoted as Formula$n_{o}$ and Formula$n_{e}$, respectively. The corresponding relative permittivities are Formula$\epsilon_{m} = n_{m}^{2}$, Formula$\epsilon_{o} = n_{o}^{2}$, and Formula$\epsilon_{e} = n_{e}^{2}$. The situation that Formula$\phi = 90^{\circ}$ is considered here, and then the elements of the relative permittivity tensor for the Formula$x\ >\ 0$ region are Formula$\epsilon_{xx} = n_{xx}^{2} = n_{o}^{2}$, Formula$\epsilon_{xy} = n_{xy}^{2} = 0$, Formula$\epsilon_{xz} = n_{xz}^{2} = 0$, Formula$\epsilon_{yx} = n_{yx}^{2} = 0$, Formula$\epsilon_{yy} = n_{yy}^{2} = n_{o}^{2} + (n_{e}^{2} - n_{o}^{2})\sin^{2}\,\theta$, Formula$\epsilon_{yz} = n_{yz}^{2} = (n_{e}^{2}\ - n_{o}^{2})\sin\,\theta\,\cos\,\theta$, Formula$\epsilon_{zx} = n_{xz}^{2} = 0$, Formula$\epsilon_{zy} = n_{zy}^{2} = (n_{e}^{2} - n_{o}^{2})\sin\,\theta\,\cos\,\theta$, and Formula$\epsilon_{zz} = n_{zz}^{2} = n_{o}^{2} + (n_{e}^{2} - n_{o}^{2})\cos^{2}\,\theta$.

Figure 1
Fig. 1.The range of the allowable Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ for the surface modes guided by the interface between a metal material and a uniaxially anisotropic dielectric material with Formula$n_{e}\ >\ n_{o}$, as depicted in the inset.

In the following analysis, we assume that Formula$\epsilon_{m}$ is complex with lossy imaginary part, and Formula$\epsilon_{o}$ and Formula$\epsilon_{e}$ are real and positive. Note that in [7], it was assumed Formula$\epsilon_{m}$ is real and negative and Formula$\vert\epsilon_{m}\vert\ >\ \epsilon_{e}\ >\ \epsilon_{o}$. In the metal material, we write the trial solutions as Formula$E_{ym}(x)$ and Formula$H_{ym}(x)$. The transverse electric (TE) mode and the TM mode trial solutions are assumed to be Formula$E_{ym}(x) = A_{\rm TE} \exp(\kappa_{m}x)$ and Formula$H_{ym}(x) = A_{\rm TM} \exp(\kappa_{m}x)$, respectively, where Formula$A_{\rm TE}$ and Formula$A_{\rm TM}$ are arbitrary constants. In the anisotropic material region, the trial solutions are expressed as Formula$E_{y}(x) = E_{yo} + E_{ye}$, where the subscripts Formula$o$ and Formula$e$ denote the ordinary and the extraordinary components, respectively. We take Formula$E_{y}(x) = A_{o} \exp[-\kappa_{o}x] + A_{e} \exp[-\kappa_{e}x]$ for guided-mode solutions with Formula$n_{e}\ >\ n_{o}$, and Formula$E_{y}(x) \!=\! A_{o} \exp [-\kappa_{o}x]\ + A_{e} \exp[-j\kappa_{e}x]$ for leaky-mode solutions, where Formula$A_{o}$ and Formula$A_{e}$ are arbitrary constants. Note that the inclusion of Formula$j$ in the second term of Formula$E_{y}(x)$ for leaky modes would assure the complex Formula$\kappa_{e}$ can be obtained from solving the derived characteristic equation, as was similarly treated in [11].

In the metal material region, the wave vector components satisfy Formula$\kappa_{m}^{2} = (\beta^{2} - k_{0}^{2}\epsilon_{m})$, and in the anisotropic material region, the corresponding relations are Formula$\kappa_{o}^{2} = (\beta^{2} - k_{0}^{2}n_{o}^{2})$ and Formula$\kappa_{e}^{2} = \pm(\beta^{2}\epsilon_{zz}/ n_{o}^{2} - k_{0}^{2}\epsilon_{e})$ for the ordinary and extraordinary components, respectively, where Formula$k_{0}$ is the free-space wavenumber, Formula$k_{0}^{2} = \omega^{2}\epsilon_{0}\mu_{0}$, and Formula$\beta$ is the modal propagation constant along the Formula$z$ direction. Note that we have ± in Formula$\kappa_{e}^{2}$ with the upper and lower signs corresponding to the guided and leaky modes, respectively. In the corresponding (2) in [3], only the plus sign was given and thus only guided modes could be obtained.

By fulfilling the continuity conditions of the four field components, Formula$E_{y}(x)$, Formula$E_{z}(x)$, Formula$H_{y}(x)$, and Formula$H_{z}(x)$, at the interface, we can respectively obtain the characteristic equations for

  1. Guided surface modes (the Dyakonov surface wave): Formula TeX Source $$\kappa_{o}(\kappa_{m} + \kappa_{o})\left(\epsilon_{m}\kappa_{o}^{2} + n_{o}^{2} \kappa_{m}\kappa_{e}\right)\cos^{2}\theta = k_{0}^{2}n_{o}^{2}(\kappa_{e} + \kappa_{o})\left(\epsilon_{m}\kappa_{o} + n_{o}^{2}\kappa_{m}\right)\sin^{2}\theta\eqno{\hbox{(1)}}$$
  2. Leaky surface modes: Formula TeX Source $$\kappa_{o}(\kappa_{m} + \kappa_{o})\left(\epsilon_{m}\kappa_{o}^{2} + jn_{o}^{2}\kappa_{m}\kappa_{e}\right) \cos^{2}\theta = k_{0}^{2}n_{o}^{2}(j\kappa_{e} + \kappa_{o})\left(\epsilon_{m}\kappa_{o} + n_{o}^{2}\kappa_{m} \right)\sin^{2}\theta.\eqno{\hbox{(2)}}$$

As in the modal analysis of planar waveguides involving uniaxially anisotropic materials [12], considering the extraordinary wave, the range of the modal effective index, defined as Formula$n_{eff} = \beta/k_{0}$, for the guided modes can be determined by a Formula$\theta$-dependent cutoff line which corresponds to Formula$\kappa_{e} = 0$ and defined by the formula, Formula$n_{\rm cutoff} = n_{e}n_{o}/[n_{o}^{2}\,\sin^{2}\,\theta + n_{e}^{2}\,\cos^{2}\, \theta]^{1/2}$, as shown by the red curve in Fig. 1. The dispersion curves of the guided modes would fall above this curve, i.e., region 1 in Fig. 1, and those of the leaky modes would appear below this curve, i.e., region 2.

In (1), Formula$\kappa_{e}$ is one unknown, and if the corresponding unknown in (2) is considered as Formula$j\kappa_{e}$, then (1) and (2) seem to be identical. The appearance of Formula$j$ in (2) is due to ± in Formula$\kappa_{e}^{2}$. When the lossy metal is taken into account, the solution of Formula$\kappa_{e}$ in (1) would typically be a complex number with Formula${\rm Re}[\kappa_{e}] \gg {\rm Im}[\kappa_{e}]$. Usually the solution of Formula$\kappa_{e}$ in (2) is also with Formula${\rm Re}[\kappa_{e}] \gg {\rm Im}[\kappa_{e}]$. Therefore, the form of (2) gives an advantage of searching for the complex solution in practical numerical implementation.



We first consider the case analyzed in [7] to demonstrate the leaky surface-mode solution. The material parameters are Formula$\epsilon_{o} = 2.25$, Formula$\epsilon_{e} = 9$, and Formula$\epsilon_{m} = -20$. The wavelength is taken to be Formula$\lambda = 0.694\ \mu\hbox{m}$. By following a similar solution procedure described in [13], the complex solutions of the characteristic equations, (1) and (2), are determined. The real part of Formula$n_{eff}$ and the loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$ versus Formula$\theta$ of the analytical solution are shown as the continuous curves in Fig. 2. For Formula$\theta\ <\ \sim\! 55^{\circ}$, it is the pure guided mode as was shown in [7], which is a lossless wave, and no corresponding loss curve appears in Fig. 2. And it is seen that the Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ curve ends at the cutoff line (the red dashed curve). Please note that in [7] Formula$\lambda = 1\ \mu\hbox{m}$ was used. Our analysis based on Formula$\lambda = 1\ \mu\hbox{m}$ shows good agreement with [7], and in fact, we have found analytical solutions show very little difference between Formula$\lambda = 0.694\ \mu\hbox{m}$ and Formula$\lambda = 1\ \mu\hbox{m}$ for Formula$\theta\ <\ \sim\! 55^{\circ}$. We obtain the leaky mode for Formula$\theta\ >\ \sim\! 55^{\circ}$, for which the loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$, which is calculated from Formula${\rm Im}[n_{eff}]$ decreases to small values as Formula$\theta$ gets toward 90°, as seen in Fig. 2. The corresponding FE analysis results are shown as circle-dots and square-dots in Fig. 2 and excellent agreement with the analytical solution is seen. This FE eigenmode solver [14] was formulated using three field components with suitable perfectly matched layers (PMLs), which has successfully been applied to solve guided and leaky modes on planar optical waveguides with the core and cladding composed of uniaxially anisotropic materials, such as those analyzed in [15].

Figure 2
Fig. 2. Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ and loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$ versus Formula$\theta$ results from both analytical analysis and FE analysis for the case with Formula$\epsilon_{o} = 2.25$, Formula$\epsilon_{e} = 9$, Formula$\epsilon_{m} = -20$, Formula$\lambda = 0.694\, \mu\hbox{m}$, and Formula$\phi = 90^{\circ}$ (the optic axis in the Formula$y{-}z$ plane).

Next, we consider a real-metal case. From [16] we find that for silver, Formula$\epsilon_{m}$ is about Formula$-20 - 1.2632j$ at Formula$\lambda = 0.694\ \mu\hbox{m}$. These parameters are used together with Formula$\epsilon_{o} = 2.25$ and Formula$\epsilon_{e} = 9$. From solving (1) and (2), the analytical loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$ versus Formula$\theta$ results are shown in Fig. 3 as continuous curves for both the guided and the leaky SPP modes. Again, the corresponding FE analysis results are shown in Fig. 3 with excellent agreement with the analytical ones. Here, we do not show the corresponding Re [Formula$n_{eff}$] versus Formula$\theta$ results since they would appear almost indistinguishable from Fig. 2, indicating that the addition of the imaginary part, Formula$-1.2632j$ to Formula$\epsilon_{m} = -20$ does not give noticeable change in Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$. This imaginary part of course contributes to the guided-mode losses, as seen in Fig. 3, and the metal-induced loss adds to the leakage loss of the leaky mode for Formula$\theta\ >\ \sim\! 55^{\circ}$ such that the modal loss function changes from that in Fig. 2 to that in Fig. 3. It is also observed that the modal losses are on the similar orders of magnitude for both guided and leaky modes.

Figure 3
Fig. 3.The loss versus Formula$\theta$ results from both analytical analysis and FE analysis for the case with Formula$\epsilon_{o} = 2.25$, Formula$\epsilon_{e} = 9$, Formula$\epsilon_{m} = -20 - 1.2632j$, Formula$\lambda = 0.694\ \mu\hbox{m}$, and Formula$\phi = 90^{\circ}$ (the optic axis in the Formula$y{-}z$ plane).

We show in Fig. 4(a) and (b), respectively, the Formula$\eta_{0}H_{y}$ profiles versus the Formula$x$ position, where Formula$\eta_{0}$ is the free-space impedance, for Formula$\theta = 75^{\circ}$ and 80 °, as obtained from the FE analysis, and the corresponding Formula$E_{y}$ profiles in Fig. 4(c) and (d), respectively. Due to the anisotropic substrate, the six field components are all non-zero, forming a hybrid mode, although Fig. 4 shows the mode is more like the TM mode since Formula$E_{y}$ is relatively small. In the FE analysis, the Formula$5\ \mu\hbox{m} \leq x \leq 10\ \mu\hbox{m}$ region is the PML region for absorbing the leaky fields.

Figure 4
Fig. 4. Formula$\eta_{0}\ H_{y}$ versus Formula$x$ profiles for Formula$\theta = ({\rm a})\ 75^{\circ}$ and (b) 80°, and Formula$E_{y}$ versus Formula$x$ profiles for Formula$\theta = ({\rm c})\ 75^{\circ}$ and (d) 80°, for the case of Fig. 3 obtained from the FE analysis.

Finally, a more practical structure is considered, i.e., the nematic liquid crystal (5CB) on top of silver at Formula$\lambda = 0.644\ \mu\hbox{m}$. At this wavelength, the relative permittivities for this liquid crystal are Formula$\epsilon_{o} = (1.5292)^{2}$ and Formula$\epsilon_{e} = (1.7072)^{2}$ [17] and that for silver is Formula$\epsilon_{m} = (0.13763 - 4.0790j)^{2}$ [16]. The Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ and loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$ versus Formula$\theta$ results are shown in Fig. 5 along with the cutoff line (the red dashed curve). Now the guided mode exists when Formula$\theta\ <\ \sim \!61^{\circ}$ and the leaky mode appears when Formula$\theta\ >\ \sim \!64^{\circ}$.

Figure 5
Fig. 5. Formula${\rm Re}[n_{eff}]$ and loss in Formula$\hbox{dB}/\mu\hbox{m}$ versus Formula$\theta$ results from both analytical analysis and FE analysis for the case with the 5CB liquid crystal (Formula$\epsilon_{o} = (1.5292)^{2}$ and Formula$\epsilon_{e} = (1.7072)^{2}$) and silver Formula$(\epsilon_{m} = (0.13763\ - 4.0790j)^{2})$ at Formula$\lambda = 0.644\ \mu\hbox{m}$ for Formula$\phi = 90^{\circ}$ (the optic axis in the Formula$y{-}z$ plane).

We give a remark on the appearance of dispersion-curve discontinuity near the cutoff angle in Figs. 2, 3, and 5. In each figure, for the guided-mode part, we have searched for the solutions starting from Formula$\theta = 0^{\circ}$ to the cutoff angle, while for leaky-mode part, we have done it starting from Formula$\theta = 90^{\circ}$ toward the cutoff angle. We found it becomes more difficult to identify the leaky mode near the cutoff angle and the solution searching stopped at our best trial. The behavior near the cutoff angle could be worth being further investigated.



In conclusion, we have demonstrated that for an interface between a lossy metal material and a uniaxially anisotropic dielectric material with the optic axis falling in the interface plane, the leaky SPP mode propagating along the interface can exist in addition to the known guided SPP mode. Analytical solutions for both the guided and leaky modes are confirmed by the FE eigenmode analysis. The FE eigenmode analysis would be more conveniently applied to solving multilayer structures having more than one interface.


This work was supported in part by the National Science Council of the Republic of China under Grant NSC 101-2221-E-002-147-MY2, by the Excellent Research Projects of National Taiwan University under Grant 102R890814, and by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China under “The Aim of Top University Plan” grant. Corresponding author: H.-C. Chang (e-mail:


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Hsuan-Hao Liu

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Hung-chun Chang

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