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    • 2018-06-28 09:45:38
    • Article ID: 696779

    Sandia Light Mixer Generates 11 Colors Simultaneously

    First nanostructured material for broad mixing of light waves

    • Credit: Photo by Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories

      Sandia National Laboratories postdoctoral appointee Polina Vabishchevich, left; and Senior Scientist Igal Brener made a metamaterial that mixes two lasers to produce 11 colors ranging from the near infrared, through the colors of the rainbow, to ultraviolet. Research on the new light-mixing metamaterial was published in Nature Communications earlier today.

    • Credit: Infographic by Michael Vittitow/Sandia National Laboratories

      Sandia National Laboratories’ new light mixing metamaterial, made up of an array of nanocylinders, produces 11 colors. The infrared light is actually 10 times stronger than the red light.

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A multicolor laser pointer you can use to change the color of the laser with a button click — similar to a multicolor ballpoint pen — is one step closer to reality thanks to a new tiny synthetic material made at Sandia National Laboratories.

    A flashy laser pointer may be fun to envision, but changing the color of a laser has many other uses from discovering hidden archeology sites in dense forests and detecting signs of extraterrestrial life in the air to potentially speeding up and increasing the capacity of long-distance communication via fiber-optics networks.

    Research on the new light-mixing metamaterial was published in Nature Communications earlier today. The work was led by Sandia Senior Scientist Igal Brener along with collaborators at Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The paper reports how a metamaterial made up of an array of nanocylinders mixed two laser pulses of near infrared light to produce 11 waves of light ranging in color from the near infrared, through the colors of the rainbow, to ultraviolet.

    A metamaterial is a material made up of tiny, repeating structures that interact with electromagnetic waves in ways conventional materials cannot. The structures are much smaller than the wavelength of light they are designed to manipulate. They are somewhat similar to the natural structures that give blue morpho butterfly wings their spectacular iridescence. The wings have scales with tiny repeating structures, which reflect light to produce the blue color.

    Metamaterial mixes light to produce 11 new wavelengths

    For this optical mixer, the array of nanocylinders is made from gallium arsenide, a semiconductor used in many kinds of electronics. Gallium arsenide bends, or refracts, light strongly, which is essential for this kind of metamaterial, said Brener. Each nanocylinder is about 500 nanometers tall — or 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair — with a diameter of about 400 nanometers. They are laid out in a square pattern about 840 nanometers apart from one another.

    Current ways to mix light, such as those used for green laser pointers, use specially crafted crystals to perfectly align the light waves to allow mixing, said Brener. This is called phase matching. Because of physical rules, each crystal can only efficiently match the phases of one color of incoming light to produce one different color of light. Sandia’s metamaterial works in a completely different manner.

    Instead, the team selected two near infrared lasers with wavelengths tuned to the metamaterial’s resonant frequencies, or the wavelengths that bounce around inside the nanocylinders best, said Polina Vabishchevich, a Sandia postdoctoral appointee and first author on the paper. The light from these two lasers — call them frequencies A and B — mix to produce 11 colors from different mixing products including A+A, A+B, B+B, A+A+B, and A+B+B, among other complex mixing products.

    “With this tiny device and two laser pulses we were able to generate 11 new colors at the same time, which is so cool,” said Vabishchevich. “We don’t need to change angles or match phases.”

    Optical metamixer has potential for widespread research applications

    The metamaterial was made using processes borrowed from semiconductor device fabrication. This fabrication was conducted at several Sandia facilities including Sandia’s Microsystems Engineering, Sciences, and Applications complex and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility jointly operated with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    “If we didn’t have access to the instrumentation we have at Sandia, this research would have been impossible,” said Brener. “Without CINT’s specialized femtosecond laser system, it would have been very challenging to perform these measurements.” A femtosecond is one millionth of a billionth of a second and femtosecond lasers produce powerful light.

    Though the conversion efficiency for the optical metamixer is very low — for example the resulting red-orange light is very weak compared to the incoming light — Brener believes the efficiency can be greatly improved with further work, perhaps by stacking multiple layers of metamaterial.

    Many different kinds of chemical and biological research, from using specialized microscopes to study how diseases evade the immune system to studying the chemistry of combustion to improve vehicle efficiency, require light at specific wavelengths. This optical metamixer could convert light from lasers to a new wavelength where a laser might not be available or allow researchers to switch from one wavelength to another without having to buy a different laser, said Brener.

    Switchable, tunable lasers could also be useful in biological, chemical and atmospheric research; remote sensing; fiber-optics-based communication; even quantum optics.

    The research team included collaborators from Friedrich Schiller University Jena; John Reno, a CINT materials scientist who grew the semiconductors; Sandia physicist Mike Sinclair, who was involved in the modeling and theory; and two former Sandia researchers Sheng Liu and Gordon Keeler.

    This work was funded by DOE Office of Science.

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.

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    Researchers switch material from one state to another with a single flash of light

    Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have demonstrated a surprisingly simple way of flipping a material from one state into another, and then back again, with single flashes of laser light.

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    Engineering professor receives Department of Energy grant

    New Mexico State University Department of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Ehsan Dehghan Niri has received a United States Department of Energy grant. This is a three-year award for $400,000 and is a collaboration with Arizona State University.

    AVS and AIP Publishing Expand Partnership to Launch AVS Quantum Science

    AIP Publishing and AVS: Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing (AVS) today announced an agreement to publish AVS Quantum Science, a new online interdisciplinary journal. The announcement coincides with the AVS 65th International Symposium & Exhibition in Long Beach, California, from October 21-26, 2018.

    Prototype Solar Energy, Battery Systems to Fuel Commercialization

    Designing, building and testing prototype systems that show how renewable energy can power devices, such as a weather and soil sensor station, can help bridge the gap between basic science research and commercialization.

    Argonne to Advance High Performance Computing in Manufacturing

    Argonne awarded funding to partner with Industry to advance the use of high performance computing in manufacturing.

    "Invisible Glass" Wins 2018 Create the Future Design Contest Grand Prize

    Scientists from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials developed a technique for making nonreflecting glass, silicon, and plastic surfaces.

    Missouri S&T researchers win multimillion dollar grant to build fast-charging stations for electric cars

    Researchers from Missouri S&T and three private companies will combine their expertise to create charging stations for electric vehicles that could charge a car in less than 10 minutes - matching the time it takes to fill up a conventional vehicle with gasoline."The big problem with electric vehicles is range, and it's not so much range as range anxiety.

    Making batteries store more energy, last longer

    A new solid polymer electrolyte may help make cell phone batteries store more energy and last longer.

    Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Named Fellows of American Physical Society

    The American Physical Society (APS), the world's largest physics organization, has elected three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2018 APS fellows.

    Southern Research first to win accreditation under ISO 14034

    Southern Research has become the first organization in the United States to earn accreditation under ISO 14034, a new international standard for evaluating and verifying environmental technologies that was recently adopted by the American National Standards Institute.

    Kawtar Hafidi to head Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate at Argonne

    Physicist Kawtar Hafidi has been appointed Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.


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    Cryocooler Cools an Accelerator Cavity

    Researchers demonstrated cryogen-free operation of a superconducting radio-frequency cavity that might ease barriers to its use in societal applications.

    Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals

    New studies identify key molecular characteristics to potentially separate rare earth metals cleanly and efficiently with light.

    Placing Atoms for Optimum Catalysts

    Precise positioning of oxygens could help engineer faster, more efficient energy-relevant chemical transformations.

    How to Make Soot and Stardust

    Scientists unlock mystery that could help reduce emissions of fine particles from combustion engines and other sources.

    Breaking the Symmetry Between Fundamental Forces

    Scientists improve our understanding of the relationship between fundamental forces by re-creating the earliest moments of the universe.

    Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals

    Water molecules line up tiny particles to attach and form minerals; understanding how this happens impacts energy extraction and storage along with waste disposal.

    Heavy Particles Get Caught Up in the Flow

    First direct measurement show how heavy particles containing a charm quark get caught up in the flow of early universe particle soup.

    Seeing Between the Atoms

    New detector enables electron microscope imaging at record-breaking resolution.

    Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene

    New method can make films of atomically thin carbon that are over a foot long.

    Discovered: Optimal Magnetic Fields Suppress Instabilities in Tokamak Plasmas

    U.S. and Korean scientists show how to find and use beneficial 3-D field perturbations to stabilize dangerous edge-localized modes in plasma.


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