We present quantitative, spectroscopic polarization interferometry phase measurements on plasmonic surfaces for sensing applications. By adding a liquid crystal variable wave plate in our beam path, we are able to measure phase shifts due to small refractive index changes on the sensor surface. By scanning in a quick sequence, our technique is extended to demonstrate real-time measurements. While this optical technique is applicable to different sensor geometries - e.g., nanoparticles, nanogratings, or nanoapertures - the plasmonic sensors we use here consist of an ultrasmooth gold layer with buried linear gratings. Using these devices and our phase measurement technique, we calculate a figure of merit that shows improvement over measuring only surface plasmon resonance shifts from a reflected intensity spectrum. To demonstrate the general-purpose versatility of our phase-resolved measurements, we also show numerical simulations with another common device architecture: periodic plasmonic slits. Since our technique inherently measures both the intensity and phase of the reflected or transmitted light simultaneously, quantitative sensor device characterization is possible. This journal is
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