Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cloak of invisibility: Engineers use plasmonics to create an invisible photodetector

Date:
May 21, 2012
Source:
Stanford School of Engineering
Summary:
Engineers have for the first time used "plasmonic cloaking" to create a device that can see without being seen -- an invisible machine that detects light. It is the first example of what the researchers describe as a new class of devices that controls the flow of light at the nanoscale to produce both optical and electronic functions.

An image showing light scattering from a silicon nanowire running diagonally from bottom left to top right. The brighter areas are bare silicon while the dimmer sections are coated with gold demonstrating how plasmonic cloaking reduces light scattering in the gold-coated sections.
Credit: Stanford Nanocharacterization Lab.

It may not be intuitive, but a coating of reflective metal can actually make something less visible, engineers at Stanford and UPenn have shown. They have created an invisible, light-detecting device that can "see without being seen."

At the heart of the device are silicon nanowires covered by a thin cap of gold. By adjusting the ratio of metal to silicon -- a technique the engineers refer to as tuning the geometries -- they capitalize on favorable nanoscale physics in which the reflected light from the two materials cancel each other to make the device invisible.

Pengyu Fan is the lead author of a paper demonstrating the new device published online May 20th in the journal Nature Photonics. He is a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering at Stanford University working in Professor Mark Brongersma's group. Brongersma is senior author of the study.

Cloak of invisiblity

Light detection is well known and relatively simple. Silicon generates electrical current when illuminated and is common in solar panels and light sensors today. The Stanford device, however, is a departure in that for the first time it uses a relatively new concept known as plasmonic cloaking to render the device invisible.

The field of plasmonics studies how light interacts with metal nanostructures and induces tiny oscillating electrical currents along the surfaces of the metal and the semiconductor. These currents, in turn, produce scattered light waves.

By carefully designing their device -- by tuning the geometries -- the engineers have created a plasmonic cloak in which the scattered light from the metal and semiconductor cancel each other perfectly through a phenomenon known as destructive interference.

The rippling light waves in the metal and semiconductor create a separation of positive and negative charges in the materials -- a dipole moment, in technical terms. The key is to create a dipole in the gold that is equal in strength but opposite in sign to the dipole in the silicon. When equally strong positive and negative dipoles meet, they cancel each other and the system becomes invisible.

"We found that a carefully engineered gold shell dramatically alters the optical response of the silicon nanowire," said Fan. "Light absorption in the wire drops slightly -- by a factor of just four -- but the scattering of light drops by 100 times due to the cloaking effect, becoming invisible."

"It seems counterintuitive," said Brongersma, "but you can cover a semiconductor with metal -- even one as reflective as gold -- and still have the light get through to the silicon. As we show, the metal not only allows the light to reach the silicon where we can detect the current generated, but it makes the wire invisible, too."

Broadly effective

The engineers have shown that plasmonic cloaking is effective across much of the visible spectrum of light and that the effect works regardless of the angle of incoming light or the shape and placement of the metal-covered nanowires in the device. They likewise demonstrate that other metals commonly used in computer chips, like aluminum and copper, work just as well as gold.

To produce invisibility, what matters above all is the tuning of metal and semiconductor.

"If the dipoles do not align properly, the cloaking effect is lessened, or even lost," said Fan. "Having the right amount of materials at the nanoscale, therefore, is key to producing the greatest degree of cloaking."

In the future, the engineers foresee application for such tunable, metal-semiconductor devices in many relevant areas, including solar cells, sensors, solid-state lighting, chip-scale lasers, and more.

In digital cameras and advanced imaging systems, for instance, plasmonically cloaked pixels might reduce the disruptive cross-talk between neighboring pixels that produces blur. It could therefore lead to sharper, more accurate photos and medical images.

"We can even imagine reengineering existing opto-electronic devices to incorporate valuable new functions and to achieve sensor densities not possible today," concluded Brongersma. "There are many emerging opportunities for these photonic building blocks."

Brongersma lab alumnus Professor Linyou Cao and doctoral candidate Farzaneh Afshinmanesh contributed to this research. This work is a collaboration with Professor Nader Engheta and post-doctoral researcher Uday Chettiar from University of Pennsylvania.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford School of Engineering. The original article was written by Andrew Myers. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pengyu Fan, Uday K. Chettiar, Linyou Cao, Farzaneh Afshinmanesh, Nader Engheta, Mark L. Brongersma. An invisible metal–semiconductor photodetector. Nature Photonics, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2012.108

Cite This Page:

Stanford School of Engineering. "Cloak of invisibility: Engineers use plasmonics to create an invisible photodetector." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521104637.htm>.
Stanford School of Engineering. (2012, May 21). Cloak of invisibility: Engineers use plasmonics to create an invisible photodetector. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521104637.htm
Stanford School of Engineering. "Cloak of invisibility: Engineers use plasmonics to create an invisible photodetector." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521104637.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins