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.

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.

"Altering the topology of the surface by using metamaterials provides a fundamentally new route to manipulating light," said Evgenii Narimanov, a Purdue University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

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.

"For example, the wavelength used for telecommunications is 1.55 microns, which is about 1,000 times too large for today's microelectronics," Narimanov said.

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 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.

This story is reprinted from material from Purdue University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.