Intrinsically ultrastrong plasmon–exciton interactions in crystallized films of carbon nanotubes

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In cavity quantum electrodynamics, optical emitters that are strongly coupled to cavities give rise to polaritons with characteristics of both the emitters and the cavity excitations. We show that carbon nanotubes can be crystallized into chip-scale, two-dimensionally ordered films and that this material enables intrinsically ultrastrong emitter–cavity interactions: Rather than interacting with external cavities, nanotube excitons couple to the near-infrared plasmon resonances of the nanotubes themselves. Our polycrystalline nanotube films have a hexagonal crystal structure, ∼25-nm domains, and a 1.74-nm lattice constant. With this extremely high nanotube density and nearly ideal plasmon–exciton spatial overlap, plasmon–exciton coupling strengths reach 0.5 eV, which is 75% of the bare exciton energy and a near record for room-temperature ultrastrong coupling. Crystallized nanotube films represent a milestone in nanomaterials assembly and provide a compelling foundation for high-ampacity conductors, low-power optical switches, and tunable optical antennas.