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Cloak of invisibility: Engineers use plasmonics to create an invisible photodetector
Date:5/21/2012

It may not be intuitive, but a coating of reflective metal can actually make something less visible, engineers at Stanford and UPenn have shown. They have created an invisible, light-detecting device that can "see without being seen."

At the heart of the device are silicon nanowires covered by a thin cap of gold. By adjusting the ratio of metal to silicon a technique the engineers refer to as tuning the geometries they capitalize on favorable nanoscale physics in which the reflected light from the two materials cancel each other to make the device invisible.

Pengyu Fan is the lead author of a paper demonstrating the new device published online May 20th in the journal Nature Photonics. He is a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering at Stanford University working in Professor Mark Brongersma's group. Brongersma is senior author of the study.

Cloak of invisiblity

Light detection is well known and relatively simple. Silicon generates electrical current when illuminated and is common in solar panels and light sensors today. The Stanford device, however, is a departure in that for the first time it uses a relatively new concept known as plasmonic cloaking to render the device invisible.

By carefully designing their device by tuning the geometries the engineers have created a plasmonic cloak in which the scattered light from the metal and semiconductor cancel each other perfectly through a phenomenon known as destructive interference.

The rippling light waves in the metal and semiconductor create a separation of positive and negative charges in the materials a dipole moment, in technical terms. The key is to create a dipole in the gold that is equal in strength but opposite in sign to the dipole in the silicon. When equally strong positive and negative dipoles meet, they cancel each other and the system becomes invisible.

"We found that a carefully engineered gold shell drama
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Contact: Andrew Myers
admyers@stanford.edu
650-736-2245
Stanford School of Engineering
Source:Eurekalert

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