Boston College researchers make headwayPhysicists at the Boston College have recently managed to use new metamaterials to successfully control a beam of light employing a set of complex instructions. The achievement could have significant applications in the field of bending light around corners or other objects, and could contribute significantly to producing the soon-to-be-achieved invisibility cloak. The amazing thing about the research is that it makes the wave of light appear as if it is traveling in a straight line, when in fact it is bent around a structure, and then redirected to the other end, where it regains its original properties.
According to a paper detailing the finds, which appears in the latest issue of the respected journal Optics Express, the experts could even use their new innovation to redirect a beam of light around the entire US eastern seaboard, from Florida and into the Louisiana bayou. BC Assistant Professor of Physics Willie J. Padilla, and researcher Nathan Landy, the authors of the new study, came to this conclusion after running a large-scale simulation of what their metamaterial could behave like when built at massive proportions.
“Our method combines the novel effects of transformational optics with the practicality of dielectric construction. We show that our structures are capable of guiding light in an almost arbitrary fashion over an unprecedented range of frequencies,” the two write in the journal entry. For the new material, they used rather common dielectric equipment, and featured basic chemicals, such as silicon. Landy and Padilla also mention that the technique allows light to be manipulated through previously-thought-to-be-impossible places, such as 90-degree angles and the intricate layout of the state of Maine.
In their new research, the team successfully managed to combine metamaterials with artificial optical devices – which are also known in the scientific community as transformational optics – in their demonstration of the 'invisibility cloak' effect. Basically, what such a construct does is manipulate light to move past a certain structure or space, masking its existence from anyone looking at it. Invisibility cloaks can theoretically be made to function at any wavelength, from radio to X-rays and gamma-rays.