Renewable Energy

In plasmonics, 'optical losses' could bring practical gain

Harnessing the power of plasmonic heating could bring advances in quantum computing and ultra-high resolution displays, magnetic storage technology, cancer treatment and renewable energy.

Now, what researchers had thought of as a barrier to developing advanced technologies based on plasmonics is seen as a potential pathway to practical applications.

Plasmonic materials contain features, patterns or elements that enable unprecedented control of light by harnessing clouds of electrons called surface plasmons. It could allow the miniaturization of optical technologies, bringing advances such as nano-resolution imaging and computer chips that process and transmit data using light instead of electrons, representing a potential leap in performance.

The development of advanced optical technologies using plasmonics has been hampered because components under development cause too much light to be lost and converted into heat. But now researchers are finding that this "loss-induced plasmonic heating" could be key to development of various advanced technologies, says Vladimir M. Shalaev, co-director of the new Purdue Quantum Center, scientific director of nanophotonics at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university's Discovery Park and a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"Harnessing the intrinsic loss in plasmonics could help to usher in transformative technological innovations affecting several fields, including information technology, life sciences and clean energy. It is time for the plasmonic community to turn loss into gain," says Alexandra Boltasseva, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

- Emil Venere, Purdue News Service

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