Optics

Electrically controllable metamaterial surfaces

Researchers have added to the development of next generation photonic media by realizing an electrically tunable liquid crystal-metamaterial hybrid.

Liquid crystal loaded NIR metamaterial

Liquid crystal loaded NIR metamaterial

One of the main challenges in photonics is the ability to control and steer photons, the elementary quanta of light. The appearance of metamaterials – manmade media that are structured on the scale smaller than the wavelength – has enabled the manipulation of light to an unprecedented degree, leading to a number of important applications, such as miniaturized antennas, enhanced polarization control, improved sensitivity of photodetectors, efficient light harvesting and increased resolution of optical microscopes to name just a few.

New research has now added to the development of the next generation of artificial photonic media – metamaterials with dynamically controlled optical properties – by realizing an electrically tunable liquid crystal-metamaterial hybrid. The approach enables control over the nanostructure’s optical response both in terms of its magnitude and wavelength, thus achieving the full potential of the liquid crystals as a functional component in active metamaterial systems. In particular, the spectral tunability of the metamaterial hybrid approaches the theoretical limit of 9 % at a control voltage of only 2.7 V. The group responsible believe that this work paves the way towards the development of compact multifunctional metamaterial-based optical modulators and switches for applications in nanophotonic circuits and emerging micro-display technologies, such as near-to-eye and virtual retina displays.

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