Surface plasmon polariton propagation length: A direct comparison using photon scanning tunneling microscopy and attenuated total reflection
The propagation of surface plasmon polaritons (SPP's) is studied using a photon scanning tunneling microscope (PSTM) and conventional attenuated total reflection (ATR). The PSTM experiment uses localized (focused beam) launching of SPP's at a wavelength of 632.8 nm. Propagation of the SPP is observed as an exponentially decaying tail beyond the launch site and the 1/e propagation length is measured directly for a series of Ag films of different thicknesses. The ATR measurements are used to characterize the thin film optical and thickness parameters, revealing, notably, the presence of a contaminating adlayer of Ag2S of typical dielectric function, 8.7+i2.7, and thickness 1-2 nm. Values of the SPP propagation length, based on the ATR-derived film parameters used in the four-media implicit SPP dispersion relation, show very good agreement with those based on the PSTM images for the case of undercoupled or optimally coupled SPP modes. The observed propagation lengths are quantitatively analyzed taking explicit account of additional intrinsic damping due to the growth of the Ag2S layer and of reradiation of the SPP back into the prism outside the launch site. Finally, the PSTM images show excellent SPP beam confinement in the original propagation direction.