Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

An aerial for light

17.02.2003


Austrian physicists report unusual light-metal interaction



A team under Professor Franz Aussenegg at the University of Graz in Austria is looking into unusual interactions between light and submicroscopic metal particles. The physicists’ findings represent a major advance towards the development of improved data storage media and optical sensors. They also confirmed theoretical predictions and merited publication in 13 international scientific journals. These are the impressive results of a two-year project funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) that has been investigating the nano-cosmos.

“There’s plenty of room at the bottom,” said American Nobel Prizewinner Richard P. Feynman back in 1959. By “the bottom” he meant the world of things that are too small to see, and his point is proved by today’s computer chips, which are constantly becoming smaller yet can process increasing amounts of data, and the steadily growing capacity of CDs and DVDs. However data processing in ever tinier dimensions calls for new technologies. One of these, nano-optics, which uses light, is being researched into by Prof. Aussenegg’s team at the University of Graz Institute for Experimental Physics in Austria.


“For physical reasons guiding light with the help of lenses, mirrors or prisms is no longer possible when you get down to millionths of millimetres — the nanoworld,” said the Institute’s director, Aussenegg. “But this is the level where light — or to be more precise, optoelectrical fields — can be led through solid materials. In principle, it’s like guiding radio and TV signals through aerials and cables.” This is possible because light enters into a fascinating interaction with metal at the nanometre level. It is no longer reflected but instead excites electrons near the surface of the metal, causing them to oscillate. For a short time the light is “captured“ in the metallic structure, as an electrical field. If this “surface plasmon” state lasts long enough the optoelectrical oscillations in the metal can be channelled, as though they were travelling along a nanoscopic wire. This is crucial to the prospects of nano-optics as a practical technology.

The Graz project, completed in December 2002, succeeded in demonstrating that it is possible to influence the duration of the oscillating state of electrons near the surface of a grating-like structure of metal particles that are a few millionths of a millimetre apart from each other. The FWF backed project investigated the influence of the precise dimensions of gold and silver gratings. It provided convincing confirmation of the theoretical prediction that the right ratio of the spacing of the metal particles and their size to the wavelength of the light would quadruple the duration of the oscillation.

The team’s findings have laid the groundwork for the use of light as an alternative to electrotechnology in telecommunications engineering, data processing and data storage. The results have already opened the way for improved data storage media and optical sensors. The researchers’ work has attracted widespread attention, as shown by an article published on 24 October in the online version of Britain’s Economist magazine which spoke of a “significant step towards properly integrated optoelectronics”. Again and again, the origins of industrial revolutions have lain in fundamental research, and the breakthrough in Graz could be the start of another.

Bildunterschrift: The principle of the surface plasmon: light spreads outwards on a nanoscopic metal surface similarly to a wave in water.

Alexandra Stolba | alfa

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

nachricht New survey hints at exotic origin for the Cold Spot
26.04.2017 | Royal Astronomical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>