New zero-index material made of silicon pillar arrays

Scientists developed a new method for light to travel infinitely fast, with new on-chip material.

New zero-index material made of silicon pillar arrays embedded in a polymer matrix and clad in gold film creates a constant phase of light, which stretches out in infinitely long wavelengths.

Above: Illustration by Peter Allen/Harvard SEAS

In the 21st century, photonic devices, which use light to transport large amounts of information quickly, will enhance or even replace the electronic devices.

But there’s a step needed before optical connections can be integrated into telecommunications systems and computers: researchers need to make it easier to manipulate light at the nanoscale.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), designed the first on-chip metamaterial with a refractive index of zero, meaning that the phase of light can travel infinitely fast.

This new metamaterial was developed in the lab of Eric Mazur, the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Area Dean for Applied Physics at SEAS, and is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

Eric Mazur, said:

“Light doesn’t typically like to be squeezed or manipulated but this metamaterial permits you to manipulate light from one chip to another, to squeeze, bend, twist and reduce diameter of a beam from the macroscale to the nanoscale. It’s a remarkable new way to manipulate light.”

source Harvard University