Researchers are edging toward the creation of new optical technologies using "nanostructured metamaterials" capable of ultra-efficient transmission of light, with potential applications including advanced solar cells and quantum computing.

This graphic depicts a new nanostructured metamaterial - layers of silver and titanium oxide and tiny components called quantum dots - to dramatically change the properties of light. Researchers are working to perfect the metamaterials, which might be capable of ultra-efficient transmission of light, with potential applications including advanced solar cells, LEDs, and quantum computing. (Image courtesy of CUNY)
The metamaterial - layers of silver and titanium oxide and tiny components called quantum dots - dramatically changes the properties of light. The light becomes "hyperbolic," which increases the output of light from the quantum dots. Such materials could find applications in solar cells, light emitting diodes and quantum information processing far more powerful than today's computers.

Such metamaterials could make it possible to use single photons – the tiny particles that make up light – for switching and routing in future computers. While using photons would dramatically speed up computers and telecommunications, conventional photonic devices cannot be miniaturized because the wavelength of light is too large to fit in tiny components needed for integrated circuits. As one researcher explained, the wavelength used for telecommunications is 1.55 microns, which is about 1,000 times too large for today's microelectronics. Nanostructured metamaterials, however, could make it possible to reduce the size of photons and the wavelength of light, allowing the creation of new types of nanophotonic devices, he said.

The work was a collaboration of researchers from Queens and City Colleges of City University of New York (CUNY), Purdue University, and University of Alberta. The experimental study was led by the CUNY team, while the theoretical work was carried out at Purdue and Alberta.

The approach could help researchers develop "quantum information systems" far more powerful than today's computers. Such quantum computers would take advantage of a phenomenon described by quantum theory called "entanglement." Instead of only the states of one and zero, there are many possible "entangled quantum states" in between. For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/40437-306