Theoretical calculations indicate that it should be possible for one-dimensional (1D) photonic crystals (see figure) to exhibit giant dispersions known as the superprism effect. Previously, three-dimensional (3D) photonic crystal superprisms have demonstrated strong wavelength dispersion — about 500 times that of conventional prisms and diffraction gratings. Unlike diffraction gratings, superprisms do not exhibit zero-order transmission or higher order diffraction, thereby eliminating cross-talk problems. However, the fabrication of these 3D photonic crystals requires complex electron-beam substrate patterning and multilayer thin-film sputtering processes.

A One-Dimensional Superprism could be fabricated more easily than a three-dimensional superprism. Like a three-dimensional prism, it would exhibit strong wavelength dispersion: two beams of light incident at the same angle and having slightly different wavelengths would be refracted at two widely different angles.

The proposed 1D superprism is much simpler in structural complexity and, therefore, easier to design and fabricate. Like their 3D counterparts, the 1D superprisms can exhibit giant dispersions over small spectral bands that can be tailored by judicious structure design and tuned by varying incident beam direction. Potential applications include miniature gas-sensing devices.

This work was done by David Ting of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Physical Sciences category.

This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to

the Patent Counsel, NASA Management Office– JPL at (818) 354-7770.

Refer to NPO-30232.