Experimental realization of an epsilon-near-zero metamaterial at visible wavelengths


Optical materials with a dielectric constant near zero have the unique property that light advances with almost no phase advance. Although such materials have been made artificially in the microwave and far-infrared spectral range, bulk three-dimensional epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) engineered materials in the visible spectral range have been elusive. Here, we present an optical metamaterial composed of a carefully sculpted parallel array of subwavelength silver and silicon nitride nanolamellae that shows a vanishing effective permittivity, as demonstrated by interferometry. Good impedance matching and high optical transmission are demonstrated. The ENZ condition can be tuned over the entire visible spectral range by varying the geometry, and may enable novel micro/nanooptical components, for example, transmission enhancement, wavefront shaping, controlled spontaneous emission and superradiance.

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Figure 1: Metamaterial optical constants.
Figure 2: Metamaterial sample.
Figure 3: Metamaterial phase measurements.
Figure 4: Metamaterial effective permittivity.
Figure 5: Transmission spectra and matching condition.
Figure 6: Isotropic index.


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This work is part of the research programme of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM), which is financially supported by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). It is also funded by the European Research Council. N.E. acknowledges support from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI; grant no. FA-9550-12-1-0488).

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N.E. and A.P. conceived the idea and designed the experiment. J.P. designed and constructed the interferometer. R.M. fabricated the sample, carried out the interferometric and optical transmission measurements, and performed calculations and numerical modelling. All authors contributed to analysing the experimental data and writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ruben Maas.

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Maas, R., Parsons, J., Engheta, N. et al. Experimental realization of an epsilon-near-zero metamaterial at visible wavelengths. Nature Photon 7, 907–912 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2013.256

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