A team of physicists and engineers from the University of California, San Diego, the University of California, Los Angeles and Imperial College, London have developed a class of materials that respond magnetically to terahertz radiation, a fundamental finding relevant to many exciting applications in areas including guidance in zero visibility weather conditions, security and biomedical imaging and quality control.
Scanning electron microscope image of the metamaterial. Credit: Ta-Jen Yen UCLA
The materials described in the study to be published in the March 5th issue of the journal Science are metamaterials—artificially structured materials that extend the properties of existing naturally occurring materials and compounds. In 2000, UCSD researchers created and reported the first measurements of left-handed metamaterials —so-called because they reverse many of the physical properties that govern the behavior of ordinary materials. Left-handed materials were named one of the Top Ten scientific breakthroughs of the year by Science in December 2003 when these materials and their properties were independently confirmed by multiple groups. While not left-handed, the present metamaterials demonstrate that the magnetic response can be extended to much higher frequencies, namely the terahertz range, a set of frequencies that are intermediate between those of infrared rays and microwave rays.
“When we developed the initial left handed materials that responded in the microwave range, we were not certain if it were technically feasible to develop materials that responded to higher frequencies,” says David Smith, coauthor on the study and associate adjunct professor in UCSD’s physics department. “This is a particularly exciting advance because materials that respond in the terahertz range have many potential applications. There are very few natural materials that respond magnetically in the terahertz range.”
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