Nontechnical description: The ability to tailor the optical properties of a material in ways that do not occur in nature has led to unprecedented control over the flow of light and an extraordinary range of technological opportunities. The goal of this research is to experimentally develop a new class of synthetic optical materials in which the means by which light is bent, absorbed, and amplified are varied independently of one another at the nanoscale. In particular, this work focuses on periodic spatial arrangements of these three properties, leading to unusual one-way effects for light propagation that may ultimately find application in future laser and optical circuit technologies. The themes of this research tie in closely with planned educational efforts involving course development for graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, outreach activities aim at increasing the exposure of k-12 students to optical science, technology, and the career opportunities they hold.
Technical description: This research identifies organic small molecules and polymers as a platform to experimentally realize parity-time (PT)-symmetric optical materials, and to explore the underlying physics and application possibilities that emerge from them. Organic materials are uniquely positioned for this purpose because they feature strong linear and nonlinear optical responses, they possess enormous synthetic freedom, and they can be mixed in arbitrary proportions and freely combined to form high optical quality films and microstructures. This research will lead in the development of periodic PT materials and practical applications by focusing on PT materials with balanced gain and loss, PT materials incorporating low power nonlinearity, two-dimensional PT lattices, and PT systems in the strong coupling regime, where the relevant excitations are light-matter hybrids known as polaritons. Key results of this work include optical gratings that display unidirectional invisibility, thin film coatings with different forward and backward light transmission, and asymmetric polariton states that could provide a new path toward the long-standing goal of ultrafast, low power non-reciprocal optical functionality from non-magnetic materials.
|Effective start/end date||6/1/17 → 5/31/23|
- National Science Foundation: $500,000.00