Modern technology allows the fabrication of antennas with a characteristic size comparable to the electromagnetic wavelength in the optical region. This has led to the development of new technologies using nanoscale rectifying antennas (rectennas) for solar energy conversion and sensing of terahertz, infrared, and visible radiation. For example, a rectenna array can collect incident radiation from an emitting source and the resulting conversion efficiency and operating characteristics of the device will depend on the spatial and temporal coherence properties of the absorbed radiation. For solar radiation, the intercepted radiation by a micro- or nanoscale array of devices has a relatively narrow spatial and angular distribution. Using the Van Cittert–Zernike theorem, we show that the coherence length (or radius) of solar radiation on an antenna array is, or can be, tens of times larger than the characteristic wavelength of the solar spectrum, i.e., the thermal wavelength, λT=2πℏc/(kBT), which for T=5000 K is about 3 μm. Such an effect is advantageous, making possible the rectification of solar radiation with nanoscale rectenna arrays, whose size is commensurate with the coherence length. Furthermore, we examine the blackbody radiation emitted from an array of antennas at temperature T, which can be quasicoherent and lead to a modified self-image, analogous to the Talbot-Lau self-imaging process but with thermal rather than monochromatic radiation. The self-emitted thermal radiation may be important as a nondestructive means for quality control of the array.
We present a systematic study of tunable, plasmon extinction characteristics of arrays of nanoscale antennas that have potential use as sensors, energy-harvesting devices, catalytic converters, in near-field optical microscopy, and in surfaced-enhanced spectroscopy. Each device is composed of a palladium triangular-prism antenna and a flat counterelectrode. Arrays of devices are fabricated on silica using electron-beam lithography, followed by atomic-layer deposition (ALD) of copper. Optical extinction is measured by employing a broadband light source in a confocal, transmission arrangement. We demonstrate that the plasmon resonance in the extinction may be tailored by varying lithography conditions and is modified significantly by ALD. Most important, is the ability to control the gap spacing between the two electrodes, which, along with overall size, morphology, and material properties, modifies the plasmon resonance. We employ Finite-Difference Time-Domain simulations to demonstrate good agreement between experimental data and theory and use scanning electron microscopy to correlate plasmonic extinction characteristics with changes in morphology.
We have previously presented a method for optical rectification that has been demonstrated both theoretically and experimentally and can be used for the development of a practical rectification and energy conversion device for the electromagnetic spectrum including the visible portion. This technique for optical frequency rectification is based, not on conventional material or temperature asymmetry as used in MIM or Schottky diodes, but on a purely geometric property of the antenna tip or other sharp edges that may be incorporated on patch antennas. This “tip” or edge in conjunction with a collector anode providing connection to the external circuit constitutes a tunnel junction. Because such devices act as both the absorber of the incident radiation and the rectifier, they are referred to as “rectennas.” Using current nanofabrication techniques and the selective Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) process, junctions of 1 nm can be fabricated, which allow for rectification of frequencies up to the blue portion of the spectrum (see Section 2).