Physics & Astronomy


Researchers create an innovative light-trapping nanostructure using a genetic-inspired approach

Light-trapping nanostructureLight-trapping nanostructure created by the researchers: The top layer shows a simulation of the nanostructure confining the light in the tiny red regions. The second layer is the design generated by an approach that mimics evolutionary biology. The bottom two layers show electron micrographs of the realized nanostructure in silicon. The sharp peak on the left is the trace of the long trapping of light. Credit: Fabio Badolato.


Physicists at the University of Rochester have created a silicon nanocavity that allows light to be trapped longer than in other similarly-sized optical cavities. An innovative design approach, which mimics evolutionary biology, allowed them to achieve a 10-fold improvement on the performance of previous nanocavities.

In a paper published in Applied Physics Letters today and featured on the cover, the scientists demonstrate they have confined light in a nanocavity – a nanostructured region of a silicon wafer – for nanoseconds. Typically light would travel several meters in that time, but instead the nanostructure confined light in a region no bigger than one one hundredth the width of a human hair – roughly one-half millionth of a meter.

“Light holds the key to some of nature’s deepest secrets, but it is very challenging to confine it in small spaces,” says Antonio Badolato, professor of physics at the University of Rochester and corresponding author of the Applied Physics Letters paper. “Light has no rest mass or charge that allow forces to act on it and trap it; it has to be done by carefully designing tiny mirrors that reflect light millions of times.”

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