Sir John Pendry, Chair in Theoretical Solid State Physics at Imperial
College, London, will deliver the 2007
Gould Dow Distinguished Lecture, “The Perfect Lens: Resolution Beyond the
Limits of Wavelength,” Tuesday, February 6, 4:30 p.m., at Chesebrough
Auditorium, Chrysler Center, North Campus.
Pendry’s theoretical work in the area of metamaterials,
man-made materials that are specially created to evoke unique physical
properties, has led to a prescription for an optical lens that will be able
to focus on features significantly smaller than the wavelength of light.
With natural materials, the resolution of a lens is
limited to the order of the wavelength. However, nearly 40 years ago,
Russian scientist Victor Veselago predicted remarkable optical capabilities
from a material that had a negative refractive index (NRI). In such
materials, light would be refracted, or bent, in an opposite way to that
seen in nature.
The only problem was such a material was not know to
exist in nature. After searching for such a material for years, interest
waned, until the mid 1990’s when Sir John Pendry, in collaboration with
scientists at Marconi Materials Technology in England, thought to create a
man-made material with the desired electromagnetic properties. These
metamaterials would derive their properties from their structure, rather
than the atomic and molecular constituents. The microstructure in turn can
be engineered to exhibit exotic electromagnetic properties. Researchers
experimentally demonstrated an NRI metamaterial which operated in the
microwave range in 2000.
“These metamaterials promise to turn optics upside down
by breaking through the limits on resolution imposed by conventional
technology,” said Pendry. In 2000, he theoretically predicted that a slab of
negative index material could act as a superlens capable of perfect
resolution. His perfect lens concept attracted tremendous interest to the
field of metamaterials and the lens’ implementation has become the subject
of an intense research effort.
This same type of metamaterial is predicted to have
enormous potential in the field of optical data storage, and lithography.
More recently, Pendry and colleagues David Smith and David Schurig at Duke
University introduced a new and exciting application of metamaterials:
invisibility cloaks. They have formulated a general prescription for
developing metamaterial shells that render objects placed within them
invisible for a given wavelength of operation.
In a recent article in Scientific American,
Pendry credits EECS assistant professor Tony Grbic and U-M EECS alumnus and
U. Toronto professor George Eleftheriades with proving experimentally that a
superlens could be built. Grbic, a member of the Radiation Laboratory since
2006, and his research group are currently investigating new approaches to
developing NRI materials to broaden their application. They are also
developing metamaterial-based rf/microwave devices such as phase shifters,
filters, antennas and antenna feed networks. Grbic predicts that negative
index lenses at microwave frequencies will lead to improved medical imaging
devices, new sensor technologies, wireless components, antennas, and
Also, an interdisciplinary team of faculty from the U-M
College of Engineering have recently received a $5M five-year grant from the
Department of Defense to develop NRI metamaterials. They include the team’s
leader, Physics and EECS professor Roberto Merlin, EECS and Physics
professor and U-M Vice President for Research, Stephen Forrest, and
Materials Science & Engineering professors Rachel Goldman and Jinsang Kim.
One of their goals is to create a superior metamaterial that will act as
Pendry’s superlens, replacing the traditional curved lens to image extremely
small, even nanoscale objects. At the same time, they will advance the
science in the area of NRI metamaterials. As part of a Multidisciplinary
University Research Initiative (MURI) program, they are partnering with 4
Pendry received the knighthood in 2004 for his services
to science, and the 2005 Descartes Research Prize for “Extending Electromagnetism
through Novel Artificial Materials.” Reflecting about future applications for metamaterials,
Pendry stated, “I believe that the
really valuable applications have yet to be dreamt of.”
lecture is sponsored by the University of Michigan Department of
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The lecture is free and
open to the public. A reception will immediately follow the lecture.