In conventional optical instruments, light cannot be focused to spot sizes smaller than half the wavelength because of diffraction effects. An important approach to beat this diffraction limit is based on optical antennas, their name being an allusion to their radiofrequency counterparts. They have the ability to concentrate (focus) light to tiny spots of nanometer-scale dimensions, which are orders of magnitude smaller than what conventional lenses can achieve. Tiny objects such as molecules or semiconductor nanoparticles that are placed into these so-called "hot spots" of the antenna can efficiently interact with light. Thus, optical antennas boost single molecule spectroscopy or the sensitivity of optical detectors. However, the hot spot is bound to the antenna structure, which limits flexibility in designing nanooptical circuits.
The experiments conducted at nanoGUNE now show that infrared light can be transported and nanofocused with miniature transmission lines, consisting of two closely spaced metal nanowires. While lenses and mirrors manipulate light in its form of a free-space propagating wave, transmission lines guide the infrared light in form of a tightly bound surface wave (Nature Photonics, 03 April 11).
The researchers at nanoGUNE adapted the concept of classic transmission lines to the infrared frequency range. Transmission lines are specialized cables for carrying for example radio frequency signals. A simple form consists of two metal wires running closely in parallel, also called ladder line. This structure was widely used in former times for connecting the radio receiver or television set to the rooftop antenna. Applied at MHz frequencies, where typical wavelengths are in the range of centimeters to several meters, it is a prime example for transport of energy in waveguides of strongly subwavelength-scale diameter.
In their experiments, the researchers demonstrated that infrared light can be transported i
|Contact: Oihane Lakar|