Nonlinear electromagnetic radiation from metal-insulator-metal tunnel junctions

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Electro-Optics


Department of Electro-Optics and Photonics


Advisor: Joseph W. Haus


Our goal was to experimentally detect nonlinear electromagnetic (EM) radiation (in the far field) from a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) tunnel junction where the insulator thickness lies in the nanometer to subnanometer range and the metals in the junction are coupled to the electromagnetic field of incident photons. The radiation from an MIM junction originated from the photon-induced tunneling current passing through it. The phenomenon is elegantly described by photon-assisted-tunneling (PAT) theory that introduces transfer Hamiltonians in the uncoupled (when two metals are at infinite distance from each other) system Hamiltonian. This theory predicts the contribution of additional conductivity terms in the MIM interface (due to tunneling inside the junction) and ushered the development of quantum conductivity theory (QCT), as a consequence. In this thesis, we reviewed QCT from the perspective of many-body formulation and designed careful experiments to detect the nonlinear electromagnetic radiation from MIM junctions that can be attributed to photon-assisted tunneling of electrons. In our experiment, first, an insulator layer was put on the metal surface using atomic layer deposition (ALD) technique. The number of layers were varied to produce MI samples with different insulator thickness in the subnanometer range. Then, we set the background signal strength by measuring the second harmonic (SH) and third harmonic (TH) signal due to the bulk material and the surface of metal-insulator (MI) interface. Next, we spin-coated the MI sample with Au nanospheres (diameter ̃ 10 nm) to construct MIM interfaces and measured SH and TH signals from them again. Without any bias voltage across the MIM, QCT predicts an increase in TH signal only. Experimentally, we observed an increase in TH signal strength. The increase was modest which is partially attributed to the fact that we could not reliably produce MIM samples with subnanometer insulator thickness and uniform coverage. We intend to improve the surface coverage and uniformity of the insulator layer, in future, and measure SH and TH from the improved samples. Detection of such radiation would support QCT and validate the extension of transfer Hamiltonian approach from the realm of superconducting tunnel junctions to normal MIM tunnel junctions.


Metal insulator semiconductors Testing, Hamiltonian systems, Radiation, Electromagnetics, Nanotechnology, Nanoscience, Quantum Physics, Optics, tunnel junction, metal-insulator-metal, MIM, nonlinear radiation from MIM, transfer Hamiltonian, photon-assisted-tunneling, PAT, quantum conductivity coefficient, QCT, Au-Al2O3-Au, atomic layer deposition on metal, ALD on metal, metal-insulator, MI

Rights Statement

Copyright 2017, author