Dramatic Miniaturization of Metamaterials?
In a vacuum, light travels so fast that it would circle Earth more than seven times within the blink of an eye. When light propagates through matter, however, it slows by a factor typically less than 5. This factor, called the refractive index, is positive in naturally occurring materials, and it causes light to bend in a particular direction when it shines on, for example, water or glass.
Over the past two decades, scientists have managed to create artificial materials whose refractive indices are negative; these negative-index metamaterials defy normal experience by bending light in the “wrong” direction. Due to their unusual ability to manipulate electromagnetic waves and their potential to be harnessed for technology (that might, for example, cloak objects from view), negative-index metamaterials have been celebrated by scientists and engineers alike. As reported in the journal Nature, researchers have now demonstrated a drastically new way of achieving negative refraction in a metamaterial.