We revisit the mechanisms governing the sub-wavelength spatial localization of light in surface plasmon polariton (SPP) modes by investigating both local and global features in optical powerflow at SPP frequencies. Close inspection of the instantaneous Poynting vector reveals formation of optical vortices - localized areas of cyclic powerflow - at the metal-dielectric interface. As a result, optical energy circulates through a subwavelength-thick 'conveyor belt' between the metal and dielectric where it creates a high density of optical states (DOS), tight optical energy localization, and low group velocity associated with SPP waves. The formation of bonding and anti-bonding SPP modes in metal-dielectric-metal waveguides can also be conveniently explained in terms of different spatial arrangements of localized powerflow vortices between two metal interfaces. Finally, we investigate the underlying mechanisms of global topological transitions in metamaterials composed of multiple metal and dielectric films, i.e., transitions of their iso-frequency surfaces from ellipsoids to hyperboloids, which are not accompanied by the breaking of lattice symmetry. Our analysis reveals that such global topological transitions are governed by the dynamic local re-arrangement of local topological features of the optical interference field, such as vortices and saddle points, which reconfigures global optical powerflow within the metamaterial. These new insights into plasmonic light localization and DOS manipulation not only help to explain the well-known properties of SPP waves but also provide useful guidelines for the design of plasmonic components and materials for a variety of practical applications.
Tong, J., Mercedes, A., Chen, G., & Boriskina, S. V. (2014). Local field topology behind light localization and metamaterial topological transitions. In S. V. Boriskina & N. I. Zheludev (Eds.), Singular and Chiral Nanoplasmonics (pp. 259–284). Pan Stanford. https://doi.org/10.4032/9789814613187