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Concept: Metamaterial


Optical metamaterials are usually based on planarized, complex-shaped, resonant nano-inclusions. Three-dimensional geometries may provide a wider set of functionalities, including broadband chirality to manipulate circular polarization at the nanoscale, but their fabrication becomes challenging as their dimensions get smaller. Here we introduce a new paradigm for the realization of optical metamaterials, showing that three-dimensional effects may be obtained without complicated inclusions, but instead by tailoring the relative orientation within the lattice. We apply this concept to realize planarized, broadband bianisotropic metamaterials as stacked nanorod arrays with a tailored rotational twist. Because of the coupling among closely spaced twisted plasmonic metasurfaces, metamaterials realized with conventional lithography may effectively operate as three-dimensional helical structures with broadband bianisotropic optical response. The proposed concept is also shown to relax alignment requirements common in three-dimensional metamaterial designs. The realized sample constitutes an ultrathin, broadband circular polarizer that may be directly integrated within nanophotonic systems.

Concepts: Optics, Greek loanwords, Metamaterial, Polarization, Circular polarization, Polarizer, Polarimetry


Recently, a great deal of interest has been re-emerged on the possibility to manipulate surface waves, in particular, towards the THz and optical regime. Both concepts of Transformation Optics (TO) and metamaterials have been regarded as one of key enablers for such applications in applied electromagnetics. In this paper, we experimentally demonstrate for the first time a dielectric surface wave cloak from engineered gradient index materials to illustrate the possibility of using nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. The device is designed analytically and validated through numerical simulations and measurements, showing good agreement and performance as an effective surface wave cloak. The underlying design approach has much wider applications, which span from microwave to optics for the control of surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) and radiation of nanoantennas.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Light, Refraction, Refractive index, Electromagnetic radiation, Optical fiber, Metamaterial


Although all-dielectric metamaterials offer a low-loss alternative to current metal-based metamaterials to manipulate light at the nanoscale and may have important applications, very few have been reported to date owing to the current nanofabrication technologies. We develop a new “nano-solid-fluid assembly” method using 15-nm TiO2 nanoparticles as building blocks to fabricate the first three-dimensional (3D) all-dielectric metamaterial at visible frequencies. Because of its optical transparency, high refractive index, and deep-subwavelength structures, this 3D all-dielectric metamaterial-based solid immersion lens (mSIL) can produce a sharp image with a super-resolution of at least 45 nm under a white-light optical microscope, significantly exceeding the classical diffraction limit and previous near-field imaging techniques. Theoretical analysis reveals that electric field enhancement can be formed between contacting TiO2 nanoparticles, which causes effective confinement and propagation of visible light at the deep-subwavelength scale. This endows the mSIL with unusual abilities to illuminate object surfaces with large-area nanoscale near-field evanescent spots and to collect and convert the evanescent information into propagating waves. Our all-dielectric metamaterial design strategy demonstrates the potential to develop low-loss nanophotonic devices at visible frequencies.

Concepts: Optics, Light, Refractive index, Electromagnetic radiation, Metamaterial, Superlens, Wavelength, Lens


We study experimentally a fine structure of the optical Laue diffraction from two-dimensional periodic photonic lattices. The periodic photonic lattices with the C4v square symmetry, orthogonal C2v symmetry, and hexagonal C6v symmetry are composed of submicron dielectric elements fabricated by the direct laser writing technique. We observe surprisingly strong optical diffraction from a finite number of elements that provides an excellent tool to determine not only the symmetry but also exact number of particles in the finite-length structure and the sample shape. Using different samples with orthogonal C2v symmetry and varying the lattice spacing, we observe experimentally a transition between the regime of multi-order diffraction, being typical for photonic crystals to the regime where only the zero-order diffraction can be observed, being is a clear fingerprint of dielectric metasurfaces characterized by effective parameters.

Concepts: Scientific method, Crystal, Crystallography, Optics, Optical fiber, Metamaterial, Crystal system, Photonics


Controlling the emission and the flow of light in micro- and nanostructures is crucial for on-chip information processing. Here we show how to impose a strong chirality and a switchable direction of light propagation in an optical system by steering it to an exceptional point (EP)-a degeneracy universally occurring in all open physical systems when two eigenvalues and the corresponding eigenstates coalesce. In our experiments with a fiber-coupled whispering-gallery-mode (WGM) resonator, we dynamically control the chirality of resonator modes and the emission direction of a WGM microlaser in the vicinity of an EP: Away from the EPs, the resonator modes are nonchiral and laser emission is bidirectional. As the system approaches an EP, the modes become chiral and allow unidirectional emission such that by transiting from one EP to another one the direction of emission can be completely reversed. Our results exemplify a very counterintuitive feature of non-Hermitian physics that paves the way to chiral photonics on a chip.

Concepts: Optics, Physics, Light, Laser, Metamaterial, Chirality, Book of Optics, Photonics


Metamaterials are artificial substances that are structurally engineered to have properties not typically found in nature. To date, almost all metamaterials have been made from inorganic materials such as silicon and copper, which have unusual electromagnetic or acoustic properties that allow them to be used, for example, as invisible cloaks, superlenses or super absorbers for sound. Here, we show that metamaterials with unusual mechanical properties can be prepared using DNA as a building block. We used a polymerase enzyme to elongate DNA chains and weave them non-covalently into a hydrogel. The resulting material, which we term a meta-hydrogel, has liquid-like properties when taken out of water and solid-like properties when in water. Moreover, upon the addition of water, and after complete deformation, the hydrogel can be made to return to its original shape. The meta-hydrogel has a hierarchical internal structure and, as an example of its potential applications, we use it to create an electric circuit that uses water as a switch.

Concepts: DNA, Physics, Structure, Metamaterial, Superlens, Materials science, Invisibility, Metamaterial antennas


We have designed, fabricated, and experimentally characterized a lens for the THz regime based on artificial dielectrics. These are man-made media that mimic properties of naturally occurring dielectric media, or even manifest properties that cannot generally occur in nature. For example, the well-known dielectric property, the refractive index, which usually has a value greater than unity, can have a value less than unity in an artificial dielectric. For our lens, the artificial-dielectric medium is made up of a parallel stack of 100 μm thick metal plates that form an array of parallel-plate waveguides. The convergent lens has a plano-concave geometry, in contrast to conventional dielectric lenses. Our results demonstrate that this lens is capable of focusing a 2 cm diameter beam to a spot size of 4 mm, at the design frequency of 0.17 THz. The results further demonstrate that the overall power transmission of the lens can be better than certain conventional dielectric lenses commonly used in the THz regime. Intriguingly, we also observe that under certain conditions, the lens boundary demarcated by the discontinuous plate edges actually resembles a smooth continuous surface. These results highlight the importance of this artificial-dielectric technology for the development of future THz-wave devices.

Concepts: Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Maxwell's equations, Electromagnetic spectrum, Metamaterial, Birefringence, Dielectric, Permittivity


Photonic crystals (PCs) have emerged as one of the most widely used platforms for controlling light-matter interaction in solid-state systems. They rely on Bragg scattering from wavelength-sized periodic modulation in the dielectric environment for manipulating the electromagnetic field. A complementary approach to manipulate light-matter interaction is offered by artificial media known as metamaterials that rely on the average response of deep-subwavelength unit cells. Here we demonstrate a class of artificial photonic media termed “photonic hypercrystals” (PHCs) that combine the large broadband photonic density of states provided by hyperbolic metamaterials with the light-scattering efficiency of PCs. Enhanced radiative rate (20×) and light outcoupling (100×) from PHCs embedded with quantum dots is observed. Such designer photonic media with complete control over the optical properties provide a platform for broadband control of light-matter interaction.

Concepts: Scientific method, Electromagnetism, Photon, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Metamaterial, Photonics, Photonic crystal


The imminent limitations of electronic integrated circuits are stimulating intense activity in the area of nanophotonics for the development of on-chip optical components, and solutions incorporating direct-bandgap semiconductors are important in achieving this end. Optical processing of data at the nanometre scale is promising for circumventing these limitations, but requires the development of a toolbox of components including emitters, detectors, modulators, waveguides and switches. In comparison to components fabricated using top-down methods, semiconductor nanowires offer superior surface properties and stronger optical confinement. They are therefore ideal candidates for nanoscale optical network components, as well as model systems for understanding optical confinement. Here, we demonstrate all-optical switching in individual CdS nanowire cavities with subwavelength dimensions through stimulated polariton scattering, as well as a functional NAND gate built from multiple switches. The device design exploits the strong light-matter coupling present in these nanowires, leading to footprints that are a fraction of those of comparable silicon-based dielectric contrast and photonic crystal devices.

Concepts: Optics, Metamaterial, Integrated circuit, Semiconductor, Semiconductor device, Transistor, Photonics, Nanoelectronics


Subwavelength structures demonstrate many unusual optical properties which can be employed for engineering of a new generation of functional metadevices, as well as controlled scattering of light and invisibility cloaking. Here we demonstrate that the suppression of light scattering for any direction of observation can be achieved for a uniform dielectric object with high refractive index, in a sharp contrast to the cloaking with multilayered plasmonic structures suggested previously. Our finding is based on the novel physics of cascades of Fano resonances observed in the Mie scattering from a homogeneous dielectric rod. We observe this effect experimentally at microwaves by employing high temperature-dependent dielectric permittivity of a glass cylinder with heated water. Our results open a new avenue in analyzing the optical response of high-index dielectric nanoparticles and the physics of cloaking.

Concepts: Scientific method, Optics, Refractive index, Metamaterial, Scattering, Hypothesis, Lens, Rayleigh scattering