Free-field characterization via directional transmission through a nanoaperture
Sensitive optical signal detection can often be confounded by the presence of a significant background, and, as such, predetection background suppression is substantively important for weak signal detection. In this paper, we present a novel optical structure design, termed surface-wave-enabled darkfield aperture (SWEDA), which can be directly incorporated onto optical sensors to accomplish predetection background suppression. This SWEDA structure consists of a central hole and a set of groove pattern that channels incident light to the central hole via surface plasmon wave and surface-scattered wave coupling. We show that the surface wave component can mutually cancel the direct transmission component, resulting in near-zero net transmission under uniform normal incidence illumination. Here, we report the implementation of two SWEDA structures. The first structure, circular-groove-based SWEDA, is able to provide polarization-independent suppression of uniform illumination with a suppression factor of 1230. The second structure, linear-groove-based SWEDA, is able to provide a suppression factor of 5080 for transverse-magnetic wave and can serve as a highly compact (5.5 micrometer length) polarization sensor (the measured transmission ratio of two orthogonal polarizations is 6100). Because the exact destructive interference balance is highly delicate and can be easily disrupted by the nonuniformity of the localized light field or light field deviation from normal incidence, the SWEDA can therefore be used to suppress a bright background and allow for sensitive darkfield sensing and imaging (observed image contrast enhancement of 27 dB for the first SWEDA).