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June 25, 2008

Approximate visible light cloak simulated and practical device within reach


Silicon photonic crystal has holes of the right sizes and waveguides

In computer simulations, the researchers have demonstrated an approximate cloaking effect created by concentric rings of silicon photonic crystals. The mathematical proof brings scientists a step closer to a practical solution for optical cloaking.

"This is much more than a theoretical exercise," said Harley Johnson, a Cannon Faculty Scholar and professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois. "An optical cloaking device is almost within reach."

Axisymmetric photonic crystal structures may be designed to possess interesting optical properties, particularly when the photonic band structure of the material is highly anisotropic. We use finite element calculations to demonstrate an approximate electromagnetic cloaking effect imparted by a structure consisting of concentric silicon photonic crystal layers. The results show that it is possible to bend light around an object by simply using anisotropy. The calculations show that the cloaking mechanism is fundamentally different from Pendry's approach. This design may work as a practical solution for optical cloaking.


D. Xiao and H. T. Johnson, “Approximate cloaking effect in an axisymmetric silicon photonic crystal structure,” Optics Letters, 33, 860-862 (2008).


In October 2006, an invisibility cloak operating in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum was reported by researchers at Duke University, Imperial College in London, and Sensor Metrix in San Diego. In their experimental demonstration, microwave cloaking was achieved through a thin coating containing an array of tiny metallic structures called ring resonators.

To perform the same feat at much smaller wavelengths in the visible portion of the spectrum, however, would require ring resonators smaller than can be made with current technology, Johnson said. In addition, because metallic particles would absorb some of the incident light, the cloaking effect would be incomplete. Faintly outlined in the shape of the container, some of the background objects would appear dimmer than the rest.

To avoid these problems, postdoctoral research associate Dong Xiao came up with the idea of using a coating of concentric rings of silicon photonic crystals. The width and spacing of the rings can be tailored for specific wavelengths of light.

"When light of the correct wavelength strikes the coating, the light bends around the container and continues on its way, like water flowing around a rock," Xiao said. "An observer sees what is behind the container, as though it isn't there. Both the container and its contents are invisible."

Currently simulated in two dimensions, the cloaking concept could be extended to three dimensions, Xiao said, by replacing the concentric rings with spherical shells of silicon, separated by air or some other dielectric.

The researchers' optical cloaking technique is not perfect, however. "The wave fronts are slightly perturbed as they pass around the container," said Johnson, who also is affiliated with the university's Beckman Institute and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory. "Because the wave fronts don't match exactly, we refer to the technique as 'approximate' cloaking."



FURTHER READING

Invisibility to sound for acoustic shields (hide nuclear deterrent submarines from sonar detection) and shaping sound and other waves (like earthquakes) is also coming soon

Researchers at the University of Illinois are the first to achieve optical waveguiding of near-infrared light through features embedded in self-assembled, three-dimensional photonic crystals. Applications for the optically active crystals include low-loss waveguides, low-threshold lasers and on-chip optical circuitry.

Harley Johnson site

Photonic crystal tutorial

Silicon photonic crystal

Scanning electron micrograph of a porous silicon photonic crystal

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