Negative refractive index and higher-order harmonics in layered metallodielectric optical metamaterials
We study the propagation of light in a three-dimensional double-periodic Ag/TiO2 multilayer metamaterial composed of coupled plasmonic waveguides operating in the visible and UV spectral range. For these frequencies, light propagation in the plane of the waveguides is described by a negative phase velocity, while for the orthogonal direction light propagation is described by a Bloch wave composed of a large number of harmonics. As a result, the material cannot generally be described by a single phase index: by decomposing the Bloch wave into different harmonics, we show that for the wavelength range of interest the positive index m = 1 harmonic dominates the propagation of light in the orthogonal direction. These results are corroborated by numerical simulations and optical refraction experiments on a double-periodic Ag/TiO2 multilayer metamaterial prism in the 380–600 nm spectral range, which shows that positive refraction associated with right-handed harmonics dominates. By studying the isofrequency contours, we find that despite the occurrence of multiple harmonics the double-periodic structure can act as a flat lens: for a slab consisting of an integer number of unit cells, all harmonics are degenerate and constructively interfere at the image plane. This work identifies important considerations relevant to the design of many three-dimensional periodic metamaterials.