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Applied physicists create building blocks for a new class of optical circuits
Date:5/28/2010

eates innovative structures, which exhibit extremely useful properties," explains Capasso. "Our nanoclusters behave as tiny optical circuits and could be the basis of new technology such as detectors of single molecules, efficient and biologically compatible probes in cancer therapeutics, and optical tweezers to manipulate and sort out nano-sized particles. Moreover, the fabrication process is much simpler and cheaper to carry out."

The researcher's self-assembly method requires nothing more than a bit of mixing and drying. To form the clusters, the particles are first coated with a polymer, and a droplet of them is then evaporated on a water-repellent surface. In the process of evaporation, the particles pack together into small clusters. Using polymer spacers to separate the nanoparticles, the researchers were able to controllably achieve a two nanometer gap between the particlesfar better resolution than traditional top-down methods allow.

Two types of resulting optical circuits are of considerable interest. A trimer, comprising three equally-spaced particles, can support a magnetic response, an essential property of invisibility cloaks and materials that exhibit negative refractive index.

"In essence, the trimer acts as a nanoscale resonator that can support a circulating loop of current at visible and near-infrared frequencies," says Fan. "This structure functions as a nanoscale magnet at optical frequencies, something that natural materials cannot do."

Heptamers, or packed seven particle structures, exhibit almost no scattering for a narrow range of well-defined colors or wavelengths when illuminated with white light. These sharp dips, known as Fano resonances, arise from the interference of two modes of electron oscillations, a "bright" mode and a non-optically active "dark" mode, in the nanoparticle.

"Heptamers are very efficient at creating extremely intense electric fields localized in nanometer-size regions wh
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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

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