The perfect absorber

Driessen, E. F. C.; de Dood, M. J. A.
April 2009
Applied Physics Letters;4/27/2009, Vol. 94 Issue 17, p171109
Academic Journal
We demonstrate that films of very lossy metal or dielectric, with a thickness of only a few nanometers, can absorb almost all incident radiation when illuminated from the substrate side at the critical angle for total internal reflection. The absorption for s-polarized light approaches 100%, while the absorption for p-polarized light vanishes. We demonstrate this effect by measuring the absorption as a function of the angle of incidence at a wavelength of 775 nm in a 4.5 nm thick NbN film with a dielectric constant εNbN=-8.2+31.4i. The measured absorption in this film reaches a maximum of 94%. We discuss the design of a near-unity efficiency single-photon detector for s-polarized light that has a broadband absorption coefficient of >90% for wavelengths from 700 to 1600 nm.


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