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Many applications in (quantum) nanophotonics rely on controlling light-matter interaction through strong, nanoscale modification of the local density of states (LDOS). All-optical techniques probing emission dynamics in active media are commonly used to measure the LDOS and benchmark experimental performance against theoretical predictions. However, metal coatings needed to obtain strong LDOS modifications in, for instance, nanocavities, are incompatible with all-optical characterization. So far, no reliable method exists to validate theoretical predictions. Here, we use sub-nanosecond pulses of focused electrons to penetrate the metal and excite a buried active medium at precisely-defined locations inside sub-wavelength resonant nanocavities. We reveal the spatial layout of the spontaneous-emission decay dynamics inside the cavities with deep-subwavelength detail, directly mapping the LDOS. We show that emission enhancement converts to inhibition despite an increased number of modes, emphasizing the critical role of optimal emitter location. Our approach yields fundamental insight in dynamics at deep-subwavelength scales for a wide range of nano-optical systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNano Letters: a journal dedicated to nanoscience and nanotechnology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • cathodoluminescence, decay dynamics, electron microscopy, local density of states, nanocavities

ID: 45139635