Optical Properties of Surfaces

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In a paper we have published in Science in this January we have shown that we can design a flat lens, such that also different colours will be focused in the same point. Technically, we have corrected chromatic aberration.


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Again, if you try to do it with regular lenses, you will have to put several of them one after another. Let me give you a simple illustration. If I want to have two colours focused in the same spot, with a regular lens I have to use two lenses.

AIMPLAS - Optical properties testing on plastics

If I want to focus three colours, I have to have three wavelengths. So this is significant, because if you now have flat optics, you can make things thinner, smaller, and overall for less cost. And there are now many companies that are seriously looking at this.

So, this is a very interesting development. The question is, if I have a flat surface, how can I allow it to focus light? Because a normal lens focuses light, because it is actually curved. So the trick is to nanostructure the surface of the lens with many elements. You can call them antennas or resonators. These do not have to be metallic, in fact, in our recent structure we use dielectric material, not metal. And they are designed so that all the optical rays that come off the lens get focused in the same point.

I can tell you now about another development, which is purely physics. We also do fun stuff just for the sake of it. The idea is the following. This is very general type of phenomenon that appears in many different areas of physics. The first one who thought of it was the famous scientist of the nineteenth century, lord Kelvin.

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Optical Properties & Specifications

He was an accomplished sailor. He noticed that if a boat exceeds a certain speed, you will form wakes. And this is called Cherenkov effect. All these phenomena have the common physics. The common physics is that if the perturbation moves through a medium with a speed higher than the so called phase velocity of light in the actual medium, the object that is moving will emit wakes.

And these wakes come off at a certain angle, which depends on the ratio of the speed of the object to the speed of the wave. We have recently discovered another manifestation: we can create wakes on the surface of a metal by exciting surface wakes. We have shown that depending on the nanostructure of the surface we can engineer this effect, we can change the way the wakes look. So, it shows the power of nanotechnology in engineering, new optical phenomena at nanoscale.

The example I gave you is the case of acoustics: if you have a plane moving through a medium like air, and the velocity of the plane exceeds the speed of sound, you have a sonic boom, which is a shock wave. A shock wave is a natural wake.

Optical limiting properties of surface functionalized nanodiamonds probed by the Z-scan method

What happens is that these wakes are emitted on the surface of a cone. In this case, there is a cone of sound behind the moving plane. In the case of the Cherenkov effect you have a charged particle, it could be a proton or an electron moving in a natural liquid. And the same for a boat. So we generate wakes of light on a natural surface, and by structuring the surface at the nanoscale we can actually engineer these wakes, we can design them, which is a very interesting effect. Right now I have no idea. It is always valid to us. In this sense, it can generate new interesting thinking, you know, new directions of research.

Nanoscale Negative Materials for Optics Physicist Srinivas Sridhar on super resolution imaging, an entirely new way for light to propagate, and a breakthrough in nanotechnology I think, mostly in the physics, in the fact that you can design the optical properties of surfaces, and so you can design new phenomena. Like, for example, in we had a major paper in Physical Review Letters, where we generate a light beam on a surface that propagates straight without diffraction, without diverging. Neus Soriano. Optical properties.

Determining the optical properties of materials is essential to define how they are perceived by the senses of sight or touch in order to assess their functionality from an aesthetic point point of view. In addition, through these properties, we can also verify whether a material can retain heat or transmit solar radiation and check whether it is suitable for its intended use.


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  • Testing of optical properties. Turbidity This is associated with the light scattering produced by the accumulation of tiny particles within the material or by very small surface defects. Specular gloss This is associated with the ability of a surface to reflect more light in some directions than in others. Colour coordinates This is always associated with visual experiences and their interpretation through the human eye is always subjective.

    Thermicity IR effectiveness This is the capacity of a greenhouse film to retain the heat that dissipates at night thus slowing down nocturnal heat losses and, consequently, reducing excessive drops in temperature inside a greenhouse, and preventing them from affecting the quality or viability of the crops. UV-visible light transmission This is the ability of a plastic material to allow light to pass through it in the UV-visible range, measured by spectroscopy.

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    Optical Properties, Lecture 1

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