Plasmonic interferometers: From physics to biosensing applications
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Optical interferometry has a long history and wide range of applications. In recent years, plasmonic interferometer arouses great interest due to its compact size and enhanced light-matter interaction. They have demonstrated attractive applications in biomolecule sensing, optical modulation/switching, and material characterization, etc. In this work, we first propose a practical far-field method to extract the intrinsic phase dispersion, revealing important phase information during interactions among free-space light, nanostructure, and SPs. The proposed approach is confirmed by both simulation and experiment. Then we design novel plasmonic interferometer structure for sensitive optical sensing applications. To overcome two major limitations suffered by previously reported double-slit plasmonic Mach-Zehnder interferometer (PMZI), two new schemes are proposed and investigated. (1) A PMZI based on end-fire coupling improves the SP coupling efficiency and enhance the interference contrast more than 50 times. (2) In another design, a multi-layered metal-insulator-metal PMZI releases the requirement for single-slit illumination, which enables sensitive, high-throughput sensing applications based on intensity modulation. We develop a sensitive, low-cost and high-throughput biosensing platform based on intensity modulation using ring-hole plasmonic interferometers. This biosensor is then integrated with cell-phone-based microscope, which is promising to develop a portable sensor for point-of-care diagnostics, epidemic disease control and food safety monitoring.