PerspectiveAPPLIED OPTICS

Optical meta-atoms: Going nonlinear

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Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1033-1034
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad7212

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Summary

Nonlinear optics investigates the light-matter interactions in media, in which the dielectric polarization of the medium responds nonlinearly to the electric and/or magnetic field of the light. Materials with the potential for a large, fast, and broadband nonlinear response have been explored for decades; if realized, these would revolutionize nonlinear optics, leading to low-power, compact, and ultrafast applications. However, the materials now available are limited, either by relatively low nonlinear susceptibilities for ultrafast nonlinear processes or by slow response times attributable to photorefractive effect and thermal nonlinear phenomena. Moreover, growing demand for integration of multiple optoelectronic functionalities on a chip calls for nonlinear materials that are compatible with standard fabrication approaches, such as complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology. Metamaterials have been predicted to enable a plethora of novel light-matter interactions, including magnetic nonlinear response, backward phase-matching, and the nonlinear mirror (13). Linear optical properties such as dielectric permittivity, magnetic permeability, and refractive index can be designed to be positive, negative, or even zero by properly tailoring various properties of meta-atoms (the unit cells of metamaterials). Engineering nonlinear properties of metamaterials beyond those available in nature may be feasible by judiciously designing their quantum, geometric, and topological properties (4).