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Place a chunk of the clear mineral Iceland spar on top of an image and suddenly you'll see double, thanks to a phenomenon called double refraction—a result of a quality of the crystal material called optical anisotropy. Beyond just a nifty trick, materials with optical anisotropy are vital for a variety of devices such as lasers, liquid-crystal displays, lens filters and microscopes.
Now, a team of scientists and engineers led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison and University of Southern California have created a crystal that has a higher degree of optical anisotropy than all other solid substances on earth—especially for infrared light. They described the new material in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Photonics.
Anisotropy - Material - Promising - Range - Optics
"The optical anisotropy is enormous, making the material promising for a range of optics applications," says Mikhail Kats, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW–Madison and one of the senior authors on the paper.
One especially promising use for the new crystal could be imaging and other types of remote sensing using the mid-infrared transparency window, an especially important range of wavelengths that penetrate Earth's atmosphere with little distortion.
Class - Materials - Approach - Lot - Jayakanth
"This class of materials and this approach has a lot of potential," says Jayakanth Ravichandran, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science and electrical engineering-electrophysics at USC, and a senior author of the study. "We designed the material, made it, and saw a huge effect."
The new crystal has roughly 50 to 100 times greater optical birefringence—a metric of anisotropy—for mid-infrared light than has ever been measured before. That spectacular light-splitting ability comes from a unique molecular structure consisting of long chains of atoms...
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