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C Photonic and Optical Materials

EAM Research Area C – Photonic and Optical Materials

Cross-section of a photonic crystal fiber

Creation of optical materials and photonic components using micro- or nano-structuring to tailor the optical response of dielectrics and metals in order to create synthetic materials with different or improved optical properties

Photonic crystal fibers (PCF) as a platform technology for a range of new applications

The focus of Research Area C is to tailor the optical response by micro- or nano-structuring so as to create synthetic materials with radically different or improved optical properties. These synthetic materials take the form of photonic crystals (λ scale features) and metamaterials (sub-λ scale features), and are made by texturing available substances and building composites from nanometer-sized colloidal particles. The aim is to control the propagation of light and its interactions with matter in new ways (e.g. extreme refractive indices, low group velocities, high anisotropy, evanescent field focusing, electromagnetic invisibility), improving existing devices and realizing completely new ones (e.g. super-resolution imaging systems). On the micro-structured scale, the emphasis will be on photonic crystal fibers (PCF), which are distinguished by a transverse two-dimensional “crystal” lattice of repeating units made of hollow channels that run axially along the fiber. Compared to conventional fibers, the modal phase index, dispersion, window of transparency, nonlinearity, and birefringence can be tailored over wide parameter ranges. PCFs form a “platform technology” for many new applications in the study of e.g. the optical properties of ionic liquids, optical sensors, biomedical devices, and laser-machining. A related goal is the optical manipulation and characterization of nm-sized particles. Laser light will be used to trap, manipulate, and optically characterize living cells, vesicles, colloids, and metallic clusters, for example, both in free space and inside hollow-core PCFs.