Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology say they have designed a way to funnel light through ultra-small channels that has the potential to revolutionize the way information is transmitted from optical to electronic devices.
The new technology is the first to demonstrate that light can be transmitted through a wide bandwidth, the researchers said Monday. Optical devices currently rely on a single frequency to transmit light.
The university's researchers say that simulations of the design they created are practical and realistic.
They say their simulations show the real potential to build the material to modernize optics such as image processing, energy redirecting and in other fields such as adaptive optics — such as those used in the Gemini Telescope.
The material the researchers say will transmit light has yet to be fabricated. It will be made of meta-atoms containing gold and silicon oxide that are 100 nanometres wide by 25 nanometres tall. The material would allow light to be transmitted at a speed approaching infinity.
A nanometre is one billionth of a metre and visible only with a high-power electron microscope.
"These meta-atoms can be integrated as building blocks for unconventional optical components," said a report released by assistant professors at the university.
In the simulations, light was shot through the meta-atoms. Researchers found that when light hit the tiny particles at a certain frequency, it stretched into a nearly straight line.
According to assistant professors Jie Gao and Xiaodong Yang, the stretching phenomenon means that "waves of light could tunnel through very small holes."
"It's like squeezing an elephant through an ultra-small channel," said Yang. "With this research, we've filled the gap from the theoretical to the practical."