The active and analog tuning of the phase of light by metamaterials is needed to boost the switching performance of photonic devices. However, demonstrations of this type of tuning in the pivotal visible spectral region are still scarce. Herein, we report the active analog tuning of the phase of visible light reflected by a bismuth (Bi)-based metamaterial, enabled by a reversible solid-liquid transition. This metamaterial, fabricated by following a lithography-free approach, consists of two-dimensional assemblies of polydisperse plasmonic Bi nanostructures embedded in a refractory and transparent aluminum oxide matrix. The analog tuning of the phase is achieved by the controlled heating of the metamaterial to melt a fraction of the nanostructures. A maximum tuning of 320° (1.8 π) is observed upon the complete melting of the nanostructures at 230°C. This tuning is reversible by cooling to 25°C. In addition, it presents a wide hysteretic character due to liquid Bi undercooling. This enables the phase achieved by this analog approach to remain stable over a broad temperature range upon cooling and until re-solidification occurs around 100°C. Therefore, Bi-based metamaterials are endowed with analog optical memory capabilities, which are appealing for a wide range of applications, including optical data storage with enhanced information density or bistable photonic switching with a tunable "on" state.
- phase change material
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering