A Hybrid Consisting of Light and Matter

Using a box built from stacked atomically thin layers of the material tungsten disulphide, researchers have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The box has a diameter of only 100 nanometers and opens the way to new fundamental research and more compact solutions in nanophotonics. (Source: D. Baranov & Y. Strandqvist, Chalmers U.)

Researchers at Chalmers University of Tech­nology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery opens up new possi­bilities in the world of nano­photonics.

The innovative light box of the Chalmers researchers makes the alter­nations between light and matter take place so rapidly that it is no longer possible to distinguish between the two states. Light and matter become one. “We have created a hybrid consisting of equal parts of light and matter. The concept opens completely new doors in both funda­mental research and applied nano­photonics and there is a great deal of scientific interest in this,” says Ruggero Verre, a researcher in the Department of Physics at Chalmers.

The discovery came about when Verre and his depart­mental colleagues Timur Shegai, Denis Baranov, Battulga Munkhbat and Mikael Käll combined two different concepts in an innovative way. Mikael Käll’s research team is working on nano­antennas, which can capture and amplify light in the most efficient way. Timur Shegai’s team is conducting research into a certain type of atomically thin two-dimensional material, which resembles graphene. It was by combining the antenna concept with stacked two-dimensional material that the new possi­bilities were created.

The researchers used a TMDC material – tungsten disulphide – but in a new way. By creating a tiny resonance box they were able to make the light and matter interact inside it. The resonance box ensures that the light is captured and bounces round in a certain tone inside the material, thus ensuring that the light energy can be effi­ciently trans­ferred to the electrons of the TMDC material and back again. It could be said that the light energy oscillates between the two states – light waves and matter – while it is captured and amplified inside the box. The researchers have succeeded in combining light and matter extremely effic­iently in a single particle with a diameter of only 100 nanometers.

This all-in-one solution is an unexpected advance in funda­mental research, but can hopefully also contribute to more compact and cost-effective solutions in applied photonics. “We have succeeded in demons­trating that stacked atomically thin materials can be nano­structured into tiny optical resonators, which is of great interest for photonics applications. Since this is a new way of using the material, we are calling this “TMDC nano­photonics”. I am certain that this research field has a bright future,” says Timur Shegai, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at Chalmers. (Source: Chalmers U.)

Reference: R. Verre et al.: Transition metal dichalcogenide nanodisks as high-index dielectric Mie nanoresonators, Nat. Nano., online 6 May 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41565-019-0442-x

Link: Division of Bionanophotonics, Dept. of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

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