Bending light backwards

March 21, 2000

An ingenius new material announced this week looks set to turn some everyday physics on its head and open the way to entirely new kinds of electronic components.

In 1968, the Russian physicist Victor Veselago worked out how an imaginary material would behave if it had negative values for its permeability and permittivity-properties that measure how much a material modifies magnetic and electric fields. Veselago showed the material would bend, or refract, a light beam differently from a normal substance like glass. It would also reverse the Doppler shift that warps the colours of very fast-moving objects.

Scientists couldn't test Veselago's ideas because no such material existed. But now David Smith, Sheldon Schultz and their colleagues at the University of California in San Diego have made the very thing. It consists of arrays of copper rings connected by wires.

At a meeting of the American Physical Society in Minneapolis, Schultz said his team plans to test Veselago's predictions for microwaves. "We're convinced it will work, and it'll be a dramatic effect," says Schultz. He thinks this could provide exotic components for uses such as satellite communication.
Reporter: Hazel Muir


New Scientist

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