Scientists Turn Light Upside Down

Posted: Feb 25 2018, 7:48am CST | by , Updated: Feb 25 2018, 12:00pm CST , in Latest Science News


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Scientists Turn Light Upside Down
Waves propagating away from a source. Left: Regular wave propagation. Right: Wave propagation on a hyperbolic metasurface. Credit: P. Li, CIC nanoGUNE

Researchers create a hyperbolic metasurface on which light propagates with completely reshaped wafefronts

Light waves usually disperse in circular or convex wavefronts form, like ripples on water surface created by a stone. But now researchers have found that it is possible to alter light's wavefronts and to give them an entirely new shape.

Researchers say that this unique process can be achieved by using specifically structured surfaces. Structures called hyperbolic metasurface can turn the wavefronts of light upside-down when it propagates along them. Otherwise, they mostly remain homogeneous or uniform in all directions.

The scientific achievement could offer researchers more precise control over optical waves and could be incorporated into optical devices.

“On such surfaces, called hyperbolic metasurfaces, the waves emitted from a point source propagate only in certain directions, and with open (concave) wavefronts.” Co-author Javier Alfaro, a Ph.D. student at nanoGUNE, said in a statement.

To observe the waves as they propagate along the metasurface, the researcher created a surface based on boron nitride. The material was selected because it can manipulate infrared light on extremely small length scales and it requires an extremely precise structuring on the nanometer scale to fabricate altered wavefronts. Then, researchers placed an infrared gold nanorod onto the metasurface, which acted as a stone dropped into water.

By using the state-of the-art infrared nanoimaging technique, researchers were able to capture the waves.

"It was amazing to see the images. They indeed showed the concave curvature of the wavefronts that were propagating away from the gold nanorod, exactly as predicted by theory.” Lead study researcher Rainer Hillenbrand said.

Researchers suggest that the same method can also be applied to other materials, which could pave the way for better sensing and signal processing optical devices.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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