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Metamaterials open up entirely new possibilities in optics

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have developed a method that enables them to manipulate light to follow any predetermined path along a surface. The innovation has now been described as one of the world's 30 most exciting discoveries within optics and photonics during 2016.

Earlier this year, Chalmers researchers Philippe Tassin and Sophie Viaene published their discovery about how light can be controlled with metamaterials. Amidst strong international competition, their paper has now been chosen as one of the best this year by the influential magazine, Optics & Photonics News. The research is thereby featured in the special edition, Optics in 2016, which was published today.

The innovation from Chalmers University of Technology makes it possible to manipulate light to follow any predetermined path along a surface. With the help of a mathematical design tool it is possible to create various artificial materials - metamaterials - that guide the light along the path of your choice.

"We don't have to think about the limitations of natural materials. Instead, we decide what we want to do and then we design a metamaterial waveguide that makes it work. This is beautiful physics, building on Einstein's general theory of relativity," says Sophie Viaene, PhD student in the Division of Condensed Matter Physics.

The new technique has a wide field of application. For example, it can be used in optical chips to achieve reliable data delivery on the internet, or to speed up routers.

Image 1: Masters of light: Sophie Viaene and Philippe Tassin in the Department of Physics at Chalmers have developed a new technique that makes light follow any path of their choice.

Image 2: Illustration of a light bender based on the newly proposed technique: light propagates along the surface of an optical chip and flows into a metamaterial layer from the left. Thanks to a specific thickness variation, the light is either bent to the right or allowed to propagate straight through towards the exit of the optical chip without being disrupted.

"Our method opens up the toolbox of transformation optics to a plethora of waveguide-based devices," says Philippe Tassin, Professor in the Division of Condensed Matter Physics.

In the future, the researchers hope that they can even improve how light is produced.

"For example, an LED lamp is far from perfect when it comes to energy efficiency. Metamaterials could extract light in a more efficient way - and maybe we can also manipulate the colour of light," says Tassin.

The article,
Transforming two-dimensional guided light using nonmagnetic metamaterial waveguides was written by Philippe Tassin and Sophie Viaene at Chalmers University of Technology and by Vincent Ginis and Jan Danckaert at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (the Free University of Brussels). The paper was published in Physical Review B in February 2016.

For further information, contact Philippe Tassin, Professor in the Department of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, e-mail: philippe.tassin@chalmers.se and Sophie Viaene, PhD student in the Department of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, e-mail: sophie.viaene@chalmers.se

Chalmers University of Technology in profile
Chalmers University of Technology conducts research and offers education in technology, science, shipping and architecture with a sustainable future as its global vision. Chalmers is well-known for providing an effective environment for innovation and has eight priority areas of international significance - Built Environment, Energy, Information and Communication Technology, Life Science, Materials Science, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Production, and Transportation.

Graphene Flagship, an FET Flagship initiative by the European Commission, is coordinated by Chalmers. Situated in Gothenburg, Sweden, Chalmers has 11,000 full-time students and 3,000 employees.

For further information, view website: www.chalmers.se 
 Refer to page 96

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