Powerful new microscopes able to resolve DNA molecules with visible light, superfast computers that use light rather than electronic signals to process information, and Harry Potteresque invisibility cloaks are just some of the many thrilling promises of transformation optics. In this burgeoning field of science, light waves can be controlled at all lengths of scale through the unique structuring of metamaterials, composites typically made from metals and dielectrics - insulators that become polarized in the presence of an electromagnetic field. The idea is to transform the physical space through which light travels, sometimes referred to as "optical space," in a manner similar to the way in which outer space is transformed by the presence of a massive object under Einstein's relativity theory.
So far transformation optics have delivered only hints as to what the future might hold, with a major roadblock being how difficult it is to modify the physical properties of metamaterials at the nano or subwavelength scale, mainly because of the metals. Now, a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have shown it might be possible to go around that metal roadblock. Using sophisticated computer simulations, they have demonstrated that with only moderate modifications of the dielectric component of a metamaterial, it should be possible to achieve practical transformation optics results. The key to success is the combination of transformation optics with another promising new field of science known as plasmonics.
A plasmon is an electronic surface wave that rolls through the sea of conduction electrons on a metal. Just as the energy in waves of light is carried in quantized particle-like units called photons, so, too, is plasmonic energy carried in quasi-particles called plasmons. Plasmons will interact strongly with photons at th
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory