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New research field promises radical advances in optical technologies
Date:10/16/2008

t of artificial atoms, meta-atoms, which are smaller than the wavelengths of light itself," Shalaev said. "One of the most exciting applications is an electromagnetic cloak that could bend light around itself, similar to the flow of water around a stone, making invisible both the cloak and an object hidden inside."

Shalaev and researchers from his group - doctoral students Wenshan Cai and Uday K. Chettiar and principal research scientist Alexander V. Kildishev - in 2007 took a step toward creating an optical cloaking device in the visible range of the spectrum. Their theoretical design uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke, resembling a round hairbrush, and would bend light around the object being cloaked.

The mathematical equations for transformation optics are similar to the mathematics behind Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes how gravity warps space and time, Shalaev said.

"Whereas relativity demonstrates the curved nature of space and time, we are able to curve space for light, and we can design and engineer tiny devices to do this," he said. "In addition to curving light around an object to render it invisible, you could do just the opposite - concentrate light in an area, which might be used for collecting sunlight in solar energy applications. So, general relativity may find practical use in a number of novel optical devices based on transformation optics."

The metamaterials also may enable engineers to overcome obstacles now confronting the semiconductor industry: It is becoming increasingly difficult to make faster computer chips because the technology is reaching its limits. But computers using light instead of electronic signals to process information would be thousands of times faster than conventional computers. Such "photonic" computers would contain special transistor-size optical elements made from metamaterials.

Transformation optics also could enable
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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