Electrical control of optical emitter relaxation pathways enabled by graphene
PublisherNature Publishing Group
Rights accessOpen Access
Controlling the energy flow processes and the associated energy relaxation rates of a light emitter is of fundamental interest and has many applications in the fields of quantum optics, photovoltaics, photodetection, biosensing and light emission. Advanced dielectric, semiconductor and metallic systems have been developed to tailor the interaction between an emitter and its environment. However, active control of the energy flow from an emitter into optical, electronic or plasmonic excitations has remained challenging. Here, we demonstrate in situ electrical control of the relaxation pathways of excited erbium ions, which emit light at the technologically relevant telecommunication wavelength of 1.5 μm. By placing the erbium at a few nanometres distance from graphene, we modify the relaxation rate by more than a factor of three, and control whether the emitter decays into electron–hole pairs, emitted photons or graphene near-infrared plasmons, confined to <15 nm from the graphene sheet. These capabilities to dictate optical energy transfer processes through electrical control of the local density of optical states constitute a new paradigm for active (quantum) photonics and can be applied using any combination of light emitters and two-dimensional materials.