A Rainbow of Possibilities

Materials engineered at the nanoscale can control the dispersion of light and could be the basis of next-generation spectrometers and other imaging devices.

 An artist's representation of how a metasurface composed of nanoposts disperses light.
Credit: Ella Maru Studio

An artist's representation of how a metasurface disperses light. This metasurface—a sheet of material that can be altered on demand to exhibit properties not usually found in natural materials—was developed by Caltech's Andrei Faraon, assistant professor of applied physics and materials science; graduate student Ehsan Arbabi; and their colleagues from the Faraon lab.

When white light passes through a prism, various wavelengths are spread out, creating phenomena like the rainbow we see after a rain. Optical components known as diffraction gratings take advantage of this by using patterns in the spectra of light reflected off an object to provide information about that object's chemical makeup. Such diffraction gratings are commonly found in spectrometers.

Created by Robert Perkins
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