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Blocked holes can enhance rather than stop light going through
Date:11/22/2011

Conventional wisdom would say that blocking a hole would prevent light from going through it, but Princeton University engineers have discovered the opposite to be true. A research team has found that placing a metal cap over a small hole in a metal film does not stop the light at all, but rather enhances its transmission.

In an example of the extraordinary twists of physics that can occur at very small scales, electrical engineer Stephen Chou and colleagues made an array of tiny holes in a thin metal film, then blocked each hole with an opaque metal cap. When they shined light into the holes, they found that as much as 70 percent more light came through when the holes were blocked than when they were open.

"The common wisdom in optics is that if you have a metal film with very small holes and you plug the holes with metal, the light transmission is blocked completely," said Chou, the Joseph Elgin Professor of Engineering. "We were very surprised."

Chou said the result could have significant implications and uses. For one, he said, it might require scientists and engineers to rethink techniques they have been using when they want to block all light transmission. In very sensitive optical instruments, such as microscopes, telescopes, spectrometers and other optical detectors, for example, it is common to coat a metal film onto glass with the intention of blocking light. Dust particles, which are unavoidable in metal film deposition, inevitably create tiny holes in the metal film, but these holes have been assumed to be harmless because the dust particles become capped and surrounded by metal, which is thought to block the light completely.

"This assumption is wrong -- the plug may not stop the leakage but rather greatly enhance it," Chou said.

He explained that in his own field of nanotechnology, light is often used in a technique called photolithography to car
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Contact: Steven Schultz
sschultz@princeton.edu
609-258-3617
Princeton University, Engineering School
Source:Eurekalert  

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