Bending Visible Light

Outcome: Researchers in the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (CSMC) have discovered a way to simply make an amorphous laminate material ­– a metamaterial – that might one day accomplish negative refraction of visible and ultra-violet light.

Impact/benefits: The result enables extraordinary possibilities ranging from fabrication of a “super lens” to energy harvesting to “stealth” coatings for seeming invisibility, thus opening doors for entirely new products and industries.

Explanation: Negative refraction is an electromagnetic phenomenon, first theorized in the late 1800s by James Maxell in which light rays are refracted in the opposite direction than normally expected. Current materials exist that can do this, but they are very complex patterned structures.

The new study has identified a path to negative refraction using easy-to-produce stacks of amorphous materials, created with technology similar to that used to produce a flat panel television. The findings outline the component materials and the theoretical behavior of the laminates. The next step will be to demonstrate that negative refraction is possible by designing new amorphous materials.