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Scientists Make A Big Step Towards Creating The “Perfect Lens” With Metamaterials

Perfect Lens

Scientists have long been trying to make a lens that will give people the ability to see microorganisms and nano-sized viruses with the naked eye. They have named it the “perfect lens” and it will be made out of metamaterials which can change the way materials interact with the light.

In the 15 years this research has been ongoing, scientists came across many obstacles to their goals, but now it seems that a team at Michigan Technological University have overcome one of the biggest such obstacles, which is how to get light waves to pass through the lens without being consumed. The research team is led by Durdu Güney, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech; Mehdi Sadatgol, a PhD candidate at Michigan Tech; and Sahin Kaya Özdemir and Lan Yang, both with the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering of Washington University in St. Louis. In their paper they wrote: “These findings open the possibility of reviving the early dreams of making ‘magical’ metamaterials from scratch.”

What are metamaterials? These are man-made materials that have properties which have not yet been found in nature. These materials often have a base in natural materials, but have very different optical properties. Güney’s team uses thin silver films which are the base, and tweak it at the sub-wavelength scale so that light waves interact with the material in totally new ways.

“Aluminum and silver are the best choices so far in the visible light spectrum, not just for a perfect lens but all metamaterials,” Güney says. Metamaterials have already been made with these metals, but the problem is that they can still absorb light waves. “Loss or the undesired absorption of light is good in solar cells, but bad in a lens because it deteriorates the waves.”

A perfect lens would need negative index metamaterials for it to create light-bending properties. Positive index materials allow only propagating light waves to pass through (this are the majority of materials). Negative index metamaterials on the other hand don’t just pass through propagating light waves but also amplify the decaying light waves.

“In order for the perfect lens to work, you have to satisfy a lot of electromagnetic constraints,” Güney explains. “We don’t know how exactly the required optical modes [light waves in the material] need to be excited and protected in the lens for the perfect construction of an image.”

Before Güney, researchers tried to change the metamaterial to make it better, but that hasn’t worked for now. What Güney and his team did is, they took advantage of knowing which light wave crumbles as it passes through the negative index lens. They took this wave and used it to shield the desired light wave so that it can pass through.

The advance of this type of technology could mean a major breakthrough in medical technology and lightweight field equipment among others.

This research has been published in the paper: Plasmon Injection to Compensate and Control Losses in Negative Index Metamaterials.

About the author

Dean Smith

  • SarreqTeryx

    it’s not “with the naked eye” if you’re using a lens