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Bridging the gap in nanoantennas
Date:4/19/2009

In a recent publication in Nature Photonics, a joint team of researchers at CIC nanoGUNE, Donostia International Physics Center DIPC, Centro de Fsica de Materiales of CSIC/UPV-EHU in San Sebastian (Spain), Harvard University (USA) and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich (Germany) reports an innovative method for controlling light on the nanoscale by adopting tuning concepts from radio-frequency technology. The method opens the door for targeted design of antenna-based applications including highly sensitive biosensors and extremely fast photodetectors, which could play an important role in future biomedical diagnostics and information processing.

An antenna is a device designed to transmit or receive electromagnetic waves. Radio frequency antennas find wide use in systems such as radio and television broadcasting, point-to-point radio communication, wireless LAN, radar, and space exploration. In turn, an optical antenna is a device which acts as an effective receiver and transmitter of visible or infrared light. It has the ability to concentrate (focus) light to tiny spots of nanometer-scale dimensions, which is several orders of magnitude smaller than what conventional lenses can achieve. Tiny objects such as molecules or semiconductors that are placed into these so-called "hot spots" of the antenna can efficiently interact with light. Therefore optical antennas boost single molecule spectroscopy or signal-to-noise in detector applications.

In their experiments the researchers studied a special type of infrared antennas, featuring a very narrow gap at the center. These so called gap-antennas generate a very intense "hot spot" inside the gap, allowing for highly efficient nano-focusing of light. To study how the presence of matter inside the gap (the "load") affects the antenna behavior, the researchers fabricated small metal bridges inside the gap (Figure b). They mapped the near-field oscillations of the different antennas wi
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