Light-matter interactions can be strongly modified by the surrounding environment. Here, we report on the first experimental observation of molecular spontaneous emission inside a highly non-local metamaterial based on a plasmonic nanorod assembly. We show that the emission process is dominated not only by the topology of its local effective medium dispersion, but also by the non-local response of the composite, so that metamaterials with different geometric parameters but the same local effective medium properties exhibit different Purcell factors. A record-high enhancement of a decay rate is observed, in agreement with the developed quantitative description of the Purcell effect in a non-local medium. An engineered material non-locality introduces an additional degree of freedom into quantum electrodynamics, enabling new applications in quantum information processing, photochemistry, imaging and sensing with macroscopic composites.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16273
Number of pages237
JournalLight: Science & Applications
Issue number6
Early online date19 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2017


  • Composite electromagnetic materials
  • Non-local optical properties
  • Plasmonic metamaterials
  • Quantum electrodynamics
  • Spontaneous emission


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