We demonstrate the existence of a bound optical mode supported by an air slot in a thin metallic film deposited on a substrate, with slot dimensions much smaller than the wavelength. The modal size is almost completely dominated by the near field of the slot. Consequently, the size is very small compared with the wavelength, even when the dispersion relation of the mode approaches the light line of the surrounding media. In addition, the group velocity of this mode is close to the speed of light in the substrate, and its propagation length is tens of microns at the optical communication wavelength. We also investigate the performance of bends and power splitters in plasmonic slot waveguides. We show that, even though the waveguides are lossy, bends and splitters with no additional loss can be designed over a wavelength range that extends from DC to near-infrared, when the bend and splitter dimensions are much smaller than the propagation length of the optical mode. We account for this effect with an effective characteristic impedance model based upon the real dispersion relation of the plasmonic waveguide structures.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.