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Optical Design & Engineering

First theoretically investigated by Russian physicist Victor G. Veselago some 40 years ago, left-handed materials (LHMs), in which the real parts of the permittivity and permeability are simultaneously negative, are now generating interest as new research is leading to some novel real-world applications. This is evidenced by the rise in intellectual property associated with these materials.

Due to the absence of these negative index materials (NIMs) in nature, experimental research on these materials did not commence until this past decade. In 1999, John B. Pendry of the Imperial College London theoretically proposed two artificially engineered structures (or meta-materials) consisting of split-ring resonators (SRRs), which exhibit a band of negative permeability, and wires, which provide the negative permittivity at a certain frequency range. However, a group led by Professor David Smith of the University of California San Diego was the first to patent left-handed composite media technology (see U.S. #06791432), and produce the first meta-material prism. It comprised a 2D array of copper strips and SRRs that exhibited a negative index of refraction in a microwave frequency range.

What was once an academic curiosity is now starting to get industry's attention, especially given that NIMs could lead to novel lensing, antennas (see U.S. #06788273; U.S. #06958729), waveguides, and filtering applications. This technology could lead to novel optical device developments with the potential to dramatically improve the performance of existing phased array antennas, optical beam-forming networks, antenna remoting, and transportation of RF power through fiber.
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