Tunable near-infrared epsilon-near-zero and plasmonic properties of Ag-ITO co-sputtered composite films

<p>Series of co-sputtered silver-indium tin oxide (Ag-ITO) films are systematically fabricated. By tuning the atomic ratio of silver, composite films are manifested to have different microstructures with limited silver amount (<3 at.%). Two stages for film morphology changing are proposed to describe different status and growth mechanisms. The introduction of silver improves the preferred orientations of In<sub>2</sub>O<sub>3</sub> component significantly. Remarkably, dielectric permittivity of Ag-ITO films is highly adjustable, allowing the cross-over wavelengths <i>λ</i><sub><i>c</i></sub> to be changed by more than 300 nm through rapid post-annealing, and thus resulting in tunable epsilon-near-zero and plasmonic properties in the near-infrared region. Lower imaginary permittivity compared with pure metal films, as well as larger tunability in <i>λ</i><sub><i>c</i></sub> than pure ITO films suggest the potentiality of Ag-ITO films as substituted near-infrared plasmonic materials. Extended Maxwell-Garnett model is applied for effective medium approximation and the red-shifting of epsilon-near-zero region with the increase of silver content is well-fitted. Angle-variable prism coupling is carried out to reveal the surface plasmon polariton features of our films at optical communication wavelength. Broad dips in reflectance curves around 52–56° correspond to the SPP in Ag-ITO films.</p>