By Cameron Chai
The advancement in information technology is based on the ability to manipulate electron flow utilizing engineering materials. However, most properties of matter are not yet clearly defined. Now, Zubin Jacob, an electrical engineering researcher at the University of Alberta, is working on understanding certain unusual electronic properties of matter utilizing optical analogues.
Jacob together with researchers from the City and Queens colleges of the City University of New York, and the Purdue University has conducted an experiment to explore the behavior of photons traversing metamaterials that are engineered to imitate unusual electronic processes. Metamaterials are artificial nano materials that find use in a broad range of applications, including future energy harvesting, imaging and information networks.
The study results have been reported in the journal, Science. Jacob stated that one must consider metamaterials as an artificial medium, which has the capability to control light. Jacob explained that scientists require a basic thing like an on-off switch for the interaction between matter and light to manipulate and utilize light in future optical circuits. This study demonstrates sudden variations in the characteristics of an artificial medium that embosses itself on light.
Zubin further said that it will take another 5-10 years to realize the first commercial use of such light-matter interaction control based on metamaterials. One science field that metamaterials can transform in the near term is microscope technology. The power of microscopes can be improved to nanoscopes using metamaterials’ ability to compress the light size, paving the way to view nanofeatures.