Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

02.07.2014

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other.* The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

New NIST Metamaterial Gives Light a One-Way Ticket

This is a schematic of NIST's one-way metamaterial. Forward traveling green light (left) or red light passes through the multilayered block and comes out at an angle due to diffraction off of grates on the surface of the material. Light traveling in the opposite direction (right) is almost completely filtered by the metamaterial and can't pass through.

Credit: Xu/NIST

In recent years, scientists have designed nanostructured materials that allow microwave or infrared light to propagate in only one direction. Such structures hold potential for applications in optical communication—for instance, they could be integrated into photonic chips that split or combine signals carried by light waves.

But, until now, no one had achieved one-way transmission of visible light, because existing devices could not be fabricated at scales small enough to manipulate visible light's short wavelengths. (So-called "one-way mirrors" don't really do this—they play tricks with relative light levels.)

To get around that roadblock, NIST researchers Ting Xu and Henri Lezec combined two light-manipulating nanostructures: a multi-layered block of alternating silver and glass sheets and metal grates with very narrow spacings.

The silver-glass structure is an example of a "hyperbolic" metamaterial, which treats light differently depending on which direction the waves are traveling. Because the structure's layers are only tens of nanometers thick—much thinner than visible light's 400 to 700 nanometer wavelengths—the block is opaque to visible light coming in from outside. Light can, however, propagate inside the material within a narrow range of angles.

Xu and Lezec used thin-film deposition techniques at the NIST NanoFab user facility to build a hyperbolic metamaterial block.Guided by computer simulations, they fabricated the block out of 20 extremely thin alternating layers of silicon dioxide glass and silver. To coax external light into the layered material, the researchers added to the block a set of chromium grates with narrow, sub-wavelength spacings chosen to bend incoming red or green light waves just enough to propagate inside the block. On the other side of the block, the researchers added another set of grates to kick light back out of the structure, although angled away from its original direction.

While the second set of grates let light escape the material, their spacing was slightly different from that of the first grates. As a result, the reverse-direction grates bent incoming light either too much or not enough to propagate inside the silver-glass layers. Testing their structures, the researchers found that around 30 times more light passed through in the forward direction than in reverse, a contrast larger than any other achieved thus far with visible light.

Combining materials that could be made using existing methods was the key to achieving one-way transmission of visible light, Lezec says. Without the intervening silver-and-glass blocks, the grates would have needed to be fabricated and aligned more precisely than is possible with current techniques. "This three-step process actually relaxes the fabrication constraints," Lezec says.

In the future, the new structure could be integrated into photonic chips that process information with light instead of electricity. Lezec thinks the device also could be used to detect tiny particles for biosensing applications. Like the chrome grates, nanoscale particles also can deflect light to angles steep enough to travel through the hyperbolic material and come out the other side, where the light would be collected by a detector. Xu has run simulations suggesting such a scheme could provide high-contrast particle detection and is hoping to test the idea soon. "I think it's a cool device where you would be able to sense the presence of a very small particle on the surface through a dramatic change in light transmission," says Lezec.

###

*T. Xu and H.J. Lezec. Visible-frequency asymmetric transmission devices incorporating a hyperbolic metamaterial. Nature Communications. 2014, 5, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5141. http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140617/ncomms5141/full/ncomms5141.html

Mark Esser | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: NIST chromium existing glass materials structure structures techniques waves

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht New design improves performance of flexible wearable electronics
23.06.2017 | North Carolina State University

nachricht Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics
22.06.2017 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins

27.06.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>