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Advance Brings 'Hyperbolic Metamaterials' Closer to Reality

Published: May 14, 2014.
By Purdue University


- Researchers have taken a step toward practical applications for "hyperbolic metamaterials," ultra-thin crystalline films that could bring optical advances including powerful microscopes, quantum computers and high-performance solar cells.

Now researchers have shown how to create "superlattice" crystals from layers of the metal titanium nitride and aluminum scandium nitride, a dielectric, or insulator.

"Plasmonic and metamaterial devices require good material building blocks, both plasmonic and dielectric, in order to be useful in any real-world application," Boltasseva said. "Here, we develop both plasmonic and dielectric materials that can be grown epitaxially into ultra-thin and ultra-smooth layers with sharp interfaces. "

Metamaterials have engineered surfaces that contain features, patterns or elements, such as tiny antennas or alternating layers of nitrides that enable unprecedented control of light.

The layers of titanium nitride and aluminum scandium nitride used in this study are each about 5 to 20 nanometers thick. "

The feat is possible by choosing a metal and dielectric with compatible crystal structures, enabling the layers to grow together as a superlattice. The researchers alloyed aluminum nitride with scandium nitride, meaning the aluminum nitride is impregnated with scandium atoms to alter the material's crystal lattice to match titanium nitride's.

"The possibility of growing both metal and dielectric material components as a whole epitaxial system is indispensable for realizing high-performance metamaterials," Saha said.

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