Next-Generation Optical Antennas to Control Light Instead of Radio Waves

Antennas today are used to convert radio waves into electrical signal and vice versa. Scientists at the University of Notre Dame, are working towards creating Optical Antennas, that enable engineers to control how light interacts with materials and can localize light to subwavelength dimensions for use with many of today’s nanoscale devices.

Anthony J. Hoffman, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, has been focusing his efforts on next-generation materials, technologies, and devices for infrared light. Most often associated with night vision, infrared light has many uses in optical sensing and detection.

The paper titled “Monochromatic Multimode Antennas on Epsilon-Near-Zero Materials” that Hoffman and his team recently published in Advanced Optical Materials describes a special class of optical materials that can drastically alter the properties of optical antennas. This “control” of properties opens the door for new ways to engineer optical antennas.

Epsilon-Near-Zero (ENZ) materials offer unique phenomena, including wavefront engineering, enhanced light funneling through subwavelength apertures, order-of-magnitude extension of the local wavelength in waveguiding structures, and spectrally-selective absorption and thermal emissions. Building optical antennas on an ENZ material allowed the team to design and demonstrate a multimode, nearly monochromatic antenna, a new class of optical antennas, that could have use in sensing, imaging, infrared optoelectronics, and thermal emission control applications. It also offers the potential for new types of optical devices.

Hoffman, an affiliated member of the Center for Nano Science and Technology, and his team are currently working to incorporate their optical antennas into semiconductor devices in order to improve the interaction between light and semiconductor materials, thus creating the next generation of infrared sources.

For more information on this research, click here.

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