In physics, a plasmon is a quantum of plasma oscillation. Just as light (an optical oscillation) consists of photons, the plasma oscillation consists of plasmons. The plasmon can be considered as a quasiparticle since it arises from the quantization of plasma oscillations, just like phonons are quantizations of mechanical vibrations. Thus, plasmons are collective (a discrete number) oscillations of the free electron gas density. For example, at optical frequencies, plasmons can couple with a photon to create another quasiparticle called a plasmon polariton. The plasmon was initially proposed in 1952 by David Pines and David Bohm and was shown to arise from a Hamiltonian for the long-range electron-electron correlations. Since plasmons are the quantization of classical plasma oscillations, most of their properties can be derived directly from Maxwell's equations. Plasmons can be described in the classical picture as an oscillation of electron density with respect to the fixed positive ions in a metal. To visualize a plasma oscillation, imagine a cube of metal placed in an external electric field pointing to the right. Electrons will move to the left side (uncovering positive ions on the right side) until they cancel the field inside the metal. If the electric field is removed, the electrons move to the right, repelled by each other and attracted to the positive ions left bare on the right side. They oscillate back and forth at the plasma frequency until the energy is lost in some kind of resistance or damping. Plasmons are a quantization of this kind of oscillation. Plasmons play a huge role in the optical properties of metals and semiconductors. Frequencies of light below the plasma frequency are reflected by a material because the electrons in the material screen the electric field of the light. Light of frequencies above the plasma frequency is transmitted by a material because the electrons in the material cannot respond fast enough to screen it. In most metals, the plasma frequency is in the ultraviolet, making them shiny (reflective) in the visible range.
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