WFU Nanotechnology Center wins share of $5 million DOD grant

By Jacob McConnico
March 15, 2006

The Wake Forest University Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials is part of a research team selected to receive a $5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program grant from the Department of Defense to develop new negative index of refraction materials that have potential for a range of uses in military and civilian life.

David Carroll

The five-year grant teams researchers from Wake Forest's nanotechnology center with Kent State University researchers in an effort to develop these new "negative index" or "left-handed" materials. The new and unusual materials show promise for use in high-performance aircraft. Researchers anticipate that negative index materials will improve surveillance and communications capabilities, improving connectivity between air and land in the battle space.

"With our early work in negative index materials, Wake Forest was already among the first universities in the field," said David Carroll, director of Wake Forest's nanotechnology center. "This grant will provide us the competitive edge to clearly establish our credentials as a leader in artificially structured metamaterials, with implications in biomedical technology, alternative energy technologies like solar cells and fuel cells, along with military technologies."

Negative index materials bend light in the opposite direction from normal optical materials like glass. These properties are built into the materials using nano-engineering, or the ability to tailor materials at length scales one millionth the width of a human hair.

Although these negative index materials were originally demonstrated at the University of California at San Diego using microwaves, researchers at Wake Forest were among the first to begin extending these materials into the infrared, where much of today's modern telecommunications equipment functions.

These negative index materials offer a wide variety of applications, such as flat, apertureless lenses, "perfect" lenses with sub-wavelength resolution, novel antennas, new beam steering devices, sensor protection strategies, novel band gap materials and high density optical storage.