Plasmons, Nanotechnology and the Future

In April's outstanding issue of Scientific American, the world of Plasmonics as applied to nanotechnology is explored and discussed in depth. It explains how plasmonics works. The author, Harry A. Atwater, makes this fascinating, but difficult subject very understandable to those of us who lack engineering or physics degrees.

Plasmons are generated by directing an electromagnetic wave at the surface of a metal-dielectric interface. A dielectric is a non-conductor; it can even be air. The interface is the point of contact for the metal and the non-conductor. By creatively designing the metal-dielectric interface, they can generate surface plasmons with the same frequency as the outside electromagnetic wave but with a much shorter wavelength. This shortening of the wavelength while retaining the same frequency may solve a problem that has stumped electronic engineers.

Electronic engineers have been able to shrink the working parts of electronic devices but the connecting circuits have been unable to carry as much information as the devices can handle. The problem is that the size of the electromagnetic waves going through the circuits are too big for the circuits. Enter the plasmon. A plasmon carries the same information as the electromagnetic wave that created it, but at a much smaller wavelength. This is an outstanding achievement. Of further interest are the many research facilities and scientists that cooperated in this achievement. Mr. Atwater has done an excellent service making this difficult subject understandable.


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