Here we demonstrate the design, fabrication and characterization of ultrafast, surface-plasmon enhanced Au nanorod optical field emitter arrays. We present a quantitative study of electron emission from Au nanorod arrays fabricated by high-resolution electron beam lithography and excited by 35 fs pulses of 800 nm light. We present accurate models for both the optical field enhancement of Au nanorods within high-density arrays, and electron emission from those nanorods. We have also studied the effects of surface plasmon damping induced by metallic interface layers at the substrate/nanorod interface on near-field enhancement and electron emission. We have identified the peak optical field at which the electron emission mechanism transitions from a 3-photon absorption mechanism to strong-field tunneling emission. Moreover, we have investigated the effects of nanorod array density on nanorod charge yield, including measurement of space-charge effects. The Au nanorod photocathodes presented in this work display 100-1000 times higher conversion efficiency relative to previously reported UV triggered emission from planar Au photocathodes. Consequently, the Au nanorod arrays triggered by ultrafast pulses of 800 nm light in this work, may outperform equivalent UV-triggered Au photocathodes, while also offering nanostructuring of the electron pulse produced from such a cathode, which is of interest for x-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) development where nanostructured electron pulses may facilitate more efficient and brighter XFEL radiation.

The paper by Richard G Hobbs, Yujia Yang, Arya FallahiPhillip D. Keathley, Eva De Leo, Franz X. KärtnerWilliam S. Graves, and Karl K. Berggren has been accepted to ACS Nano.