Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Making light do your bidding - Scientists Create Light-Bending Nanoparticles - by Laura Mgrdichian

Metallic nanoparticles and other structures can manipulate light in ways that are not possible with conventional optical materials. In a recent example of this, Rice University researchers discovered that cup-shaped gold nanostructures can bend light in a controllable way. The cups act like three-dimensional nano-antennas.

When light interacts with nanoparticles and other tiny structures, many interesting and even dramatic physical effects can occur. For example, man-made "metamaterials" have very fine structures with features smaller than the wavelength of light, some just tens of atoms across, imparting them with unique and often intriguing optical behaviors. Metamaterials are of interest to scientists because they may be able to interact with light in ways that naturally occurring materials cannot.

The gold nanocups created in this research interact with light in two main ways: axially, the up-down direction, or transverse, the left-right direction. The transverse mode is by far the stronger of the two.

"When we illuminated the nanocups, the transverse interaction exhibited a strong scattering resonance," said Rice University researcher Naomi Halas, the study's corresponding scientist, to She conducted the study with colleague Nikolay Mirin. "We learned that the direction of the transverse resonant light scattering depends on the orientation of the cups, a property that has not been observed in studies of similar structures."

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