Researchers at Purdue University are developing a new class of 'plasmonic metamaterials' as potential building blocks for advanced optical technologies, including ultrapowerful microscopes and computers, improved solar cells, and a possible invisibility cloak.
According to Alexandra Boltasseva, metamaterials may possess an index of refraction less than one or less than zero, which promises a range of potential breakthroughs in a new field called transformation optics.
Her study overcomes two limitations of these materials - too much light is "lost," or absorbed by metals such as silver and gold contained in the metamaterials, and the materials need to be more precisely tuned so that they possess the proper index of refraction.
The researchers are working to replace silver and gold in the materials. They have tested some of the new materials and found that they outperform silver and gold.
Plasmonic metamaterials could make optical microscopes 10 times more powerful and able to see objects as small as DNA; advanced sensors; new types of light-harvesting systems for more efficient solar cells; computers and consumer electronics that use light instead of electronic signals to process information; and a cloak of invisibility.
Future photonics technologies will revolve around new types of optical transistors, switches and data processors.
Findings are detailed in an article appearing Friday (Jan. 21) in the journal Science. (ANI)