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.
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.
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.
The Latest on: Metamaterials
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The Latest on: Metamaterials
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