Nonlocality-enabled pulse management in epsilon-near-zero metamaterials

Stefaniuk T., Nicholls L.H., Córdova‐Castro R.M., Nasir M.E., Zayats A.V.

Advanced Materials

35(34), 2023, art. 2107023, 10.1002/adma.202107023

Ultrashort optical pulses are integral to probing various physical, chemical, and biological phenomena and feature in a whole host of applications, not least in data communications. Super- and subluminal pulse propagation and dispersion management (DM) are two of the greatest challenges in producing or counteracting modifications of ultrashort optical pulses when precise control over pulse characteristics is required. Progress in modern photonics toward integrated solutions and applications has intensified this need for greater control of ultrafast pulses in nanoscale dimensions. Metamaterials, with their unique ability to provide designed optical properties, offer a new avenue for temporal pulse engineering. Here an epsilon-near-zero metamaterial is employed, exhibiting strong nonlocal (spatial dispersion) effects, to temporally shape optical pulses. The authors experimentally demonstrate, over a wide bandwidth of tens of THz, the ability to switch from sub to superluminal and further to “backward” pulse propagation (±c/20) in the same metamaterial device by simply controlling the angle of illumination. Both the amplitude and phase of a 10 ps pulse can be controlled through DM in this subwavelength device. Shaping ultrashort optical pulses with metamaterials promises to be advantageous in laser physics, optical communications, imaging, and spectroscopy applications using both integrated and free-standing devices.