New 'Metasurface' Technology Can Turn Light Upside-Down

Sunday, 25 February 2018 - 4:13PM
Technology
Nanotechnology
Sunday, 25 February 2018 - 4:13PM
New 'Metasurface' Technology Can Turn Light Upside-Down
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The idea of "reshaping light" can be a difficult one to wrap your head around, but when perfected, it can allow for smaller devices that have even greater control over light. 

This is the idea behind the hyperbolic metasurface recently created by a team of researchers at CIC nanoGUNE in Spain. Metasurfaces are artificial materials capable of shortening light wavelengths to the point where small computer chips and other devices can manipulate that light to transmit information.

And a hyperbolic metasurface is much more powerful and capable of completely reshaping light wavefronts - whereas a normal metasurface can't focus light in any one direction (light tends to spread out everywhere in ripples), a hyperbolic metasurface can do just that, and was previously theorized to be possible before now.



Publishing their research in Science, the team believes that their new hyperbolic metasurface could allow for even smaller chip-like devices which manipulate light. In that sense, this could become a huge step forward for nanotechnology.

The metasurface itself is based on boron nitride, a thin graphene-like material which already had a reputation for altering infrared light on very tiny scales. The hyperbolic metasurface is designed to work with infrared light in particular.




Speaking to IEEE Spectrum, nanoGUNE professor Rainer Hillenbrand went into more detail about how this sort of technology could be used:

Opening quote
"What comes along with this shorter wavelength is a concentration and confinement of the infrared fields and thus energy. The combination of the two effects could be used to improve the sensitivity of infrared spectroscopy or to create ultra-small chips in which infrared light can be manipulated."
Closing quote


The hyperbolic metasurface could ultimately be used in a number of ways, from the exchange of information to smaller infrared spectrometers, and it'll be interesting to see how it's put to use now that one has successfully been assembled.

Of course, we wouldn't be able to "see" it very well anyway, since whatever is built using this technology would be extremely small.
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