Local density of states, spectrum, and far-field interference of surface plasmon polaritons probed by cathodoluminescence
The surface plasmon polariton (SPP) field intensity in the vicinity of gratings patterned in an otherwise planar gold surface is spatially resolved using cathodoluminescence (CL). A detailed theoretical analysis is presented that successfully explains the measured CL signal based upon interference of transition radiation directly generated by electron impact and SPPs launched by the electron and outcoupled by the grating. The measured spectral dependence of the SPP yield per incoming electron is in excellent agreement with rigorous electromagnetic calculations. The CL emission is shown to be similar to that of a dipole oriented perpendicular to the surface and situated at the point of electron impact, which allows us to establish a solid connection between the CL signal and the photonic local density of states associated to the SPPs.