The paths of light and other electromagnetic waves can be controlled by materials. The lenses in eye glasses or microscopes, for example, are nothing more than pieces of glass or plastic whose surfaces have been shaped in a particular way so as to achieve a desired optical function. Materials are used to form optical devices that operate across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to visible light.
Nature has provided us a rich palette of material properties from which to engineer useful optical devices. Yet, that palette is limited: Chemical synthesis, the conventional approach to material development, has so far not enabled us to access the entire range of material properties that should be theoretically possible. But chemistry is not the only process by which we can create materials. As an alternative approach, we can artificially structure a material by assembling a collection of objects together. These objects serve to replace the atoms and molecules of a conventional material, the result being a composite structure that can have electromagnetic properties unlike any naturally occurring or chemically synthesized material. Such composites have been termed metamaterials, because they have properties that extend beyond materials found naturally.
At Duke, our group is involved in all aspects of metamaterials research, from fundamental theory to experimental realizations, at wavelengths from RF to visible. On these pages, you will find information about metamaterials--what they are, and how they may be useful.