BETHLEHEM, PAA team of electrical engineers and chemists at Lehigh University have experimentally verified the "rainbow" trapping effect, demonstrating that plasmonic structures can slow down light waves over a broad range of wavelengths.
The idea that a rainbow of broadband light could be slowed down or stopped using plasmonic structures has only recently been predicted in theoretical studies of metamaterials. The Lehigh experiment employed focused ion beams to mill a series of increasingly deeper, nanosized grooves into a thin sheet of silver. By focusing light along this plasmonic structure, this series of grooves or nano-gratings slowed each wavelength of optical light, essentially capturing each individual color of the visible spectrum at different points along the grating. The findings hold promise for improved data storage, optical data processing, solar cells, bio sensors and other technologies.
While the notion of slowing light or trapping a rainbow sounds like ad speak, finding practical ways to control photonsthe particles that makes up light could significantly improve the capacity of data storage systems and speed the processing of optical data.
The research required the ability to engineer a metallic surface to produce nanoscale periodic gratings with varying groove depths. This alters the optical properties of the nanopatterned metallic surface, called Surface Dispersion Engineering. The broadband surface light waves are then trapped along this plasmonic metallic surface with each wavelength trapped at a different groove depth, resulting in a trapped rainbow of light.
Through direct optical measurements, the team showed that light of different wavelengths in the 500-700nm region was "trapped" at different positions along the grating, consistent with computer simulations. To prepare the nanopattern gratings required "milling" 150nm wide rectangular grooves every 520nm along the surface of a 300-nm-thick