Ramki Kalyanaraman, a professor in both the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and fellow materials science professor Gerd Duscher recently made a breakthrough in research that could lead to a better coupling of light and magnetism, which in turn could yield improvements in data storage, sensing, imaging, and optical communication. Using silver and a cobalt-iron compound, they focused on exploring the unique interactions of those materials—specifically, their magnetic and visibility properties.
In finding the right mix of materials, the UT-led team happened upon an entirely unexpected result—a magnetic material with extremely strong optical interactions that place it under consideration as a metamaterial, meaning a material with properties not found in nature. Intriguingly, this also opens up its possible use for invisibility and cloaking.
“This whole process has been discovery-driven, and one of those discoveries was that these same materials exhibited some strong optical visibility properties,” said Kalyanaraman. “It took a while for us to believe what we were seeing was real.”
Kalyanaraman is quick to caution that this is all still occurring at the nano level. Meanwhile, he said the other properties of the materials might make them useful as medical sensors. For now, the team is studying how and why the pairing behaves as it does and whether it can be duplicated using other materials.