PerspectiveApplied Physics

The rise of near-zero-index technologies

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1540-1541
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0459

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Summary

Since the beginning of metamaterial research, the electrodynamic properties of media with a refractive index near zero have attracted the interest of the scientific community because of the intriguing wave phenomena that they are expected to exhibit (13). As the refractive index approaches zero, the wavelength expands, and the spatial and temporal field variations effectively decouple (1, 3). This gives access to a new regime of wave dynamics in which geometry-invariant wave phenomena can take place. For example, waves can tunnel through deformed waveguides (2), resonators can preserve their resonance frequency independently of the geometry of their external boundary (4), and light can be trapped in small three-dimensional (3D) regions, even if open to an unbounded environment (5, 6). Recent experimental progress is also pushing forward the applied aspects of near-zero-index (NZI) media, leading to a generation of technologies with the potential to revolutionize different aspects of nanophotonics and other physical systems.