Twisting Nanoparticle Light to Reveal “Forbidden” Colors is presented by the Nanophotonics Orchestra.


Physicists at the University of Bath in the UK observe a new physical effect in chiral (twisted) nanoparticles.

Physics researchers at the University of Bath discover a new physical effect relating to the interactions between light and twisted materials – an effect that is likely to have implications for emerging new nanotechnologies in communications, nanorobotics, and ultra-thin optical components.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Italian master craftsman Antonio Stradivari produced musical instruments of legendary quality, and most famous are his (so-called) Stradivarius violins. What makes the musical output of these musical instruments both beautiful and unique is their particular timbre, also known as tone color or tone quality. All instruments have a timbre – when a musical note (sound with frequency fs) is played, the instrument creates harmonics (frequencies that are an integer multiple of the initial frequency, i.e. 2fs, 3fs, 4fs, 5fs, 6fs, etc.).

Similarly, when light of a certain color (with frequency fc) shines on materials, these materials can produce harmonics (light frequencies 2fc, 3fc, 4fc, 5fc, 6fc, etc.). The harmonics of light reveal intricate material properties that find applications in medical imaging, communications, and laser technology.

For instance, virtually every green laser pointer is in fact an infrared laser pointer whose light is invisible to human eyes. The green light that we see is actually the second harmonic (2fc) of the infrared laser pointer and it is produced by a special crystal inside the pointer.

In both musical instruments and shiny materials, some frequencies are ‘forbidden’ – that is, they cannot be heard or seen because the instrument or material actively cancels them. Because the clarinet has a straight, cylindrical shape, it suppresses all of the even harmonics (2fs, 4fs, 6fs, etc.) and produces only odd harmonics (3fs, 5fs, 7fs, etc.). By contrast, a saxophone has a conical and curved shape which allows all harmonics and results in a richer, smoother sound. Somewhat similarly, when a specific type of light (circularly polarized) shines on metal nanoparticles dispersed in a liquid, the odd harmonics of light cannot propagate along the direction of light travel, and the corresponding colors are forbidden.

Now, an international team of scientists led by researchers from the Department of Physics at the University of Bath have found a way to reveal the forbidden colors, amounting to the discovery of a new physical effect. To achieve this result, they ‘curved’ their experimental equipment.

Professor Ventsislav Valev, who led the research,… Brinkwire News Summary.


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