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Penn research helps lay out theory for metamaterials that act as an analog computer
Date:1/9/2014

dvances in integrated electronic circuits that allowed digital computers to rapidly shrink their footprints and boost their speed.

By swapping their mechanical gears and electrical circuits for optical materials that operate on light waves, however, it may once again be analog computers' time to shine, but this time at the micro- and nanoscale.

"Compared to digital computers, these analog computers were bulky, power hungry, and slow," Engheta said. "But by applying the concepts behind them to optical metamaterials, one day we might be able to make them at micro- and nanoscale sizes, and operate them at nearly speed of light using little power."

"The thickness of our structures can be comparable with the optical wave length or even smaller," said Vincenzo Galdi of the University of Sannio. "Implementing similar operations with conventional optical systems, such as lenses and filters, would require much thicker structures."

Metamaterials are composites of natural materials, but are designed in such a way that they manipulate electromagnetic waves in ways that are more than the simple sum of their parts. Objects made from natural materials have atoms and molecules that are arranged in certain patterns dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry. Those patterns give natural materials their electromagnetic properties, which in turn determine how they influence the properties of waves. By going to another layer of organization making patterns of multiple materials at length scales smaller than the waves passing through them, like a series of nanoscopic gold cubes embedded in glass metamaterial designers can alter waves in ways not possible by simple surfaces or lenses.

For example, a pen sticking out of a glass of water looks bent because the water surface refracts or "bends" the light; light traveling from the pen to the viewer from below the water line has a different angle of refraction than the light traveling from abo
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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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