Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

Metamaterial Discovery the Combinatorial Way

British engineers perfect a way to characterise the properties of new photonic metamaterials using the brute force methods of combinatorial chemistry

  • September 7, 2010

The ability to make and test thousands of different but structurally related molecules has had a huge impact on the pharmaceutical industry. These days, it’s not uncommon for a company to make (or simulate) tens of thousands of similar molecules in an attempt to identify one in which the required biochemical activity is optimised. This brute force method, called combinatorial chemistry, is also used to identify new catalysts, light emitting materials and electronic devices.

So it’s not really a stretch to imagine the same technique being used to discover new metamaterials with unusual electromagnetic properties and indeed that is exactly what Eric Plum and pals at the University of Southampton today suggest.

Their idea is to create an array of metamaterial samples in which various design parameters vary in a regular way. They then test each new material with a view to finding one in which the properties are optimised for the kind of photons the team want to manipulate.

They test the idea by creating an array cells each containing a new metamaterial made of gold square split ring resonators and in which the size of the squares varies from cell to cell in steps of 25 nm.

They then measured the reflection and transmission properties of each cell and compared the results to computer simulations of their properties.

What these guys are looking for are resonance effects that occur at very specific frequencies and which can be fine-tuned by varying factors such as the size of the split rings and the number and thickness of extra layers. These so-called Fano resonances are important because they act like optical switches that are flicked on by light of a specific frequency.

There’s one problem though: small but inescapable variations in the manufacturing process inevitably change the resonances. But by comparing the simulated and experimental performance, Plum and co were able to characterise the changes caused by manufacturing variations.

That’s a potentially lucrative ability. Engineers expect to use Fano resonances in future generations of electronic devices as everything from ultracompact nanoantennas to optical memories. And that means there’s a potentially huge payoff at stake for anyone who can master the technology.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1009.0391: A Combinatorial Approach To Metamaterials Discovery

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.