Surface Josephson plasma waves in a high-temperature superconductor
npj Quantum Materials
Electron density oscillations with acoustic dispersions and sustained at boundaries between different media provide information about surface and interface properties of heterostructures. In ultrathin metallic films these plasmonic excitations are heavily damped. Superconductivity is predicted to reduce dissipation allowing detection of these resonances. Emerging low-loss interface Cooper-pair waves have been studied before, however, the observation of surface-confined Josephson plasmons in
... son plasmons in highly anisotropic superconductors has remained elusive. Here, we report on generation and coupling to these excitations in an ultrathin single-crystal film of high-temperature superconductor La1.85Sr0.15CuO4. The film becomes brighter than Au below the critical temperature when probed with sub-gap THz photons. We show that the enhanced signal in the superconducting state, which can be visualized with a spatial resolution better than λ/3000, originates from near-field coupling of light to surface Josephson plasmons. Our results open a path towards non-invasive investigation of enhanced superconductivity in artificial multilayers, buried interface states in topological heterostructures, and non-linear phenomena in Josephson devices.