The study and construction of metamaterials has given a new direction to the field of Plasmonics, the study of Plasmons. These are small waves of electron density that are produced by using light. Using Plasmons, optical signals can be squeezed into very small wires. The induction of plasmons in metamaterials can induce extraordinary optical and magnetic properties in them. Together, these two developments can be used to envisage higher capacity optical data storage and telecom systems that are ultrafast, compact and highly integrated (Atwater, 2007).
The Technology Review, the publication from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has identified Metamaterials as one of the top ten emerging technologies in a special review. They offer significant size reduction in optical data storage and computation. When combined with plasmonics, they demonstrate electromagnetic properties that are impossible to achieve with conventional materials. Thus, they can be effective circuit elements of very small size but increased complexity and performance. They can also enable the Radio Frequency (RF) signals to be shaped and controlled in a completely novel way. This will miniaturize the devices and processors for computers, help the information processing be faster. Eventually, this technology could change the future of telecommunications and data storage.
This technology promises to have a significant impact as evidenced by the numerous applications of Plasmonic circuits in Information Technology (IT). The various areas are:
1. Design of Circuits with faster interconnects that could move large amounts of data across a chip very fast.
2. Increase in the efficiency of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), helping increase in data transfer rates over optical fibres.
3. Increase in the sensitivity of chemical and biological detectors paving the way for future biosensors.
4. Construction of Terahertz devices finally leading to superfast computers.
Industry/products chosen for the application of metamaterials
I am interested in the application of plasmonic metamaterials to computer chips in the IT industry. Miniscule plasmonic devices with arrays of metamaterial stripes and gaps can be produced to act as computer chips. The arrangement of these arrays acts as a plasmonic circuit that can convey much more data at a significantly higher rate than conventional computer chips. Such a circuit would not be susceptible to the shortcomings of a normal circuit as the electrons bunch together and spread rather than traveling from one end of the circuit to the other. An additional advantage of the quantum metamaterials produced by the combination of plasmonics with metamaterials would allow the plasmon waves to travel over very long distances whereas other plasmon waves get damped out after a short time (IOP Press Release, 2007). It would not be subject to resistance and capacitance as in the case of the circuit with electrical interconnects. Efforts are currently ongoing at Caltech to develop a plasmonic switch with transistor like properties. If such a device can be made, the same could serve to produce ultrafast signal processing systems.