Decay of surface plasmons to hot carriers finds a wide variety of applications in energy conversion, photocatalysis and photodetection. However, a detailed theoretical description of plasmonic hot-carrier generation in real materials has remained incomplete. Here we report predictions for the prompt distributions of excited ‘hot’ electrons and holes generated by plasmon decay, before inelastic relaxation, using a quantized plasmon model with detailed electronic structure. We find that carrier energy distributions are sensitive to the electronic band structure of the metal: gold and copper produce holes hotter than electrons by 1–2 eV, while silver and aluminium distribute energies more equitably between electrons and holes. Momentum-direction distributions for hot carriers are anisotropic, dominated by the plasmon polarization for aluminium and by the crystal orientation for noble metals. We show that in thin metallic films intraband transitions can alter the carrier distributions, producing hotter electrons in gold, but interband transitions remain dominant.

Last updated on 07/13/2018