Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New material puts a twist in light

Date:
July 18, 2014
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
Scientists have uncovered the secret to twisting light at will. It is the latest step in the development of photonics, the faster, more compact and less carbon-hungry successor to electronics. A random find in the washing basket led the team to create the latest in a new breed of materials known as metamaterials. These artificial materials show extraordinary properties quite unlike natural materials.

This image depicts David Powell twisting light.
Credit: ANU

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have uncovered the secret to twisting light at will. It is the latest step in the development of photonics, the faster, more compact and less carbon-hungry successor to electronics.

Related Articles


A random find in the washing basket led the team to create the latest in a new breed of materials known as metamaterials. These artificial materials show extraordinary properties quite unlike natural materials.

"Our material can put a twist into light -- that is, rotate its polarisation -- orders of magnitude more strongly than natural materials," said lead author Mingkai Liu, a PhD student at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE).

"And we can switch the effect on and off directly with light," said Mr Liu .

Electronics is estimated to account for two per cent of the global carbon footprint, a figure which photonics has the potential to reduce significantly. Already light carried by fibre optics, has replaced electricity for carrying signals over long distances. The next step is to develop photonic analogues of electronic computer chips, by actively controlling the properties of light, such as its polarisation.

The ability of a material to rotate polarisation, as in this experiment, springs from the asymmetry of a molecule. It occurs in natural minerals and substances; for example, sugar is asymmetric and so polarisation rotation can be used to measure sugar concentrations, which is useful in diabetes research.

However the remarkable properties of this artificial material might first be put to use in the budding photonics industry, suggests co-author Dr David Powell, also from RSPE.

"It's another completely new tool in the toolbox for processing light," he says. "Thin slices of these materials can replace bulky collections of lenses and mirrors. This miniaturisation could lead to the creation of more compact opto-electronic devices, such as a light-based version of the electronic transistor."

The metamaterials are formed from a pattern of tiny metal shapes, dubbed meta-atoms. To obtain optical rotation Mr Liu and his colleagues used pairs of C-shaped meta-atoms, one suspended above the other by a fine wire. When light is shined on to the pair of meta-atoms the top one rotates, making the system asymmetric.

"The high responsiveness of the system comes because it is very easy to make something hanging rotate," says Mr Liu.

"The idea came to me when I found a piece of wire in my washing one day."

The fact that the team's meta-atoms move when light shines on them adds a new dimension, he says.

"Because light affects the symmetry of our system, you can tune your material's response simply by shining a light beam on it. Tunability of a metamaterial is an important step towards building devices based on these artificial materials," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mingkai Liu, David A. Powell, Ilya V. Shadrivov, Mikhail Lapine, Yuri S. Kivshar. Spontaneous chiral symmetry breaking in metamaterials. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5441

Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "New material puts a twist in light." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718110449.htm>.
Australian National University. (2014, July 18). New material puts a twist in light. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718110449.htm
Australian National University. "New material puts a twist in light." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140718110449.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) — A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tesla 'Insane Mode' Gives Unsuspecting Passengers the Ride of Their Life

Tesla 'Insane Mode' Gives Unsuspecting Passengers the Ride of Their Life

RightThisMinute (Jan. 29, 2015) — If your car has an "Insane Mode" then you know it&apos;s fast. Well, these unsuspecting passengers were in for one insane ride when they hit the button. Tesla cars are awesome. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Now Bill Gates Is 'Concerned' About Artificial Intelligence

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) — Bill Gates joins the list of tech moguls scared of super-intelligent machines. He says more people should be concerned, but why? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) — The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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