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Metamaterials for a new frontier

Metamaterials for a new frontier

Princeton (USA) – Metamaterial, the material that refracts electromagnetic radiation in reverse compared to the others: this is the name attributed to discovery which was received by a research group from the University of Pricenton in New Jersey, led by engineering graduate Anthony Hoffman.

The group, which includes personalities in the field, other students and Alcatel-Lucent, explain that the peculiar property of the refraction of the metamaterial is to be negative therefore contrary to that normally known.

To explain the behavior, PhySorg writes: “In the case of a straw in a glass of water, the known effect is to see the submerged part appear curved towards the surface of the glass. If water were metamaterial, as is the newly discovered material, the submerged part would appear turned away instead of approached “.

The study is part of a project called MIRTHE (Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment) and brings as a key to the discovery the origin from which this metamaterial can be produced: it is of traditional substances such as metals or semiconductors , combined in very small alternations that modify their overall properties. The effect is manipulate the light in methods that are not feasible with normal matter. Producing it, according to the research team, will be relatively simple and will offer many new possibilities: much more than a simple optical illusion, the negative refraction it will be used to develop new types of lenses, where it will be able to compensate very easily for the aberrations introduced by the traditional ones. According to the team of researchers, this will mean producing telescopes that can see much further away and microscopes capable of go to the molecular level .

Furthermore, the metamaterial is also active in the infrared zone, which is used in many sensors and telecommunication applications. Claire Gmachl, a professor of electrical engineering who is part of the group, is also the head of the MIRTHE project in which sensors are being developed that measure the quantity of traces of certain gases, both in the atmosphere and in human respiration. These sensors also use infrared lasers for the analytical part. “A typical infrared lens is currently a bulky object, with all the difficulties that come with it,” says Hoffman. “With this new material, the problem disappears.”

The immediate implication will be, according to the group of researchers, the adoption of these lenses for the production of new infrared lasers, more compact and of higher quality, also useful in data transmission.

Marco Valerio Principality