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BC's newly engineered nanomaterial uses geometic features to capture light.  (Source: Boston College)
New material "perfectly absorbs light," converting it to heat

While research into light refracting metamaterials has produced a few neat, if very small toys, some groups, like the British Royal Navy, are taking cloaking devices quite seriously. Mostly, this type of thing works on negative refraction indexes, the materials merely bend light, visible or otherwise, around themselves. While this would be incredibly useful for Motoko Kusanagi or Klingon Birds of Prey, cloaking materials don't have a lot of use in generic, not blowing up the bad guys, applications.

A collaboration between Boston College and Duke University has developed a metamaterial that might be slightly more useful to scientists and engineers. Their new metallic metamaterial absorbs light perfectly. The resonating materials can absorb both the electrical and magnetic properties of electromagnetic waves over a narrow frequency range, turning the light into heat.

“Three things can happen to light when it hits a material. It can be reflected, as in a mirror. It can be transmitted, as with window glass. Or it can be absorbed and turned into heat. This metamaterial has been engineered to ensure that all light is neither reflected nor transmitted, but is turned completely into heat and absorbed. It shows we can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface,” explains Boston College's Willie J. Padilla, a leading researcher in optics and metamaterials.

As the material's properties make it easily scalable, though the absorption range is narrow, it could be tuned to a vast portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some of the possible uses for a material like this include light detectors and electronic imaging applications.





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