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A class of metamaterials designed with low

Pursuing Near-Zero Response permittivity provides a platform for developing
optical devices with unconventional properties.
Nader Engheta

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n most wave phenomena, the inter- The frequency of the wave tells us how (whereas its imaginary part is small). Alter-
play between the spatial and tempo- the structure’s materials behave, whereas its natively, metamaterials can be designed to
ral features of a wave is influenced by wavelength in the host medium is the yard- achieve effective permittivity near zero by
the medium in which the wave propagates. stick by which the physical dimensions of mixing constituent materials with permittiv-
For example, the wavelength λ (a spatial the structure affect the wave-structure inter- ity-positive (oxides) and permittivity-nega-
feature) and the frequency f (a temporal action. These two aspects of interaction are tive (metal) structures, such as the stacks of
feature) of a propagating signal are related often closely intertwined because any phys- thin layers of pairs of such structures (see
via the phase velocity v of the wave in the ical structure is made of a material and has the figure, panel B). Another way to imitate
medium as v = f λ. For electromagnetic certain physical dimensions. Of course, as propagation in an ENZ medium is to exploit
waves such as radio, microwave, and opti- we go to higher frequencies, wavelengths the structural dispersion of metal-clad wave-
cal waves, the phase velocity is determined are generally shortened. However, metama- guides near their cut-off frequencies (3, 4).
by the medium’s electromagnetic param- terials allow the link between the frequency ENZ metamaterials offer unprecedented
eters of permittivity ε and permeability µ, and the wavelength to be relaxed. If either wave properties. One such property is the
which is then given as v = 1 / εµ. When a the permittivity or the permeability (or both) phenomenon of supercoupling (1), in which
wave interacts with a structure embedded in can be designed to be relatively low values the wave in one waveguide can efficiently
a host medium, both these temporal and spa- near zero, the phase velocity of the wave will tunnel through a very narrow, ENZ-filled
tial features play key roles in determining approach a very high value, resulting in long channel to reach another waveguide, regard-
the scattering response of the structure. The wavelengths at high frequencies (see the fig- less of the channel’s length, shape, bend-
recent development of a class of metamate- ure, panel A). ing and twisting, and the relative orienta-
rials in which the electric (ε) and magnetic The class of materials in which the rela- tion of the two waveguides (see the figure,
(µ) properties can be tuned by design is pro- tive permittivity ε attains near-zero values panel C). Counterintuitively, the narrower
viding a platform to engineer optical devices around a given frequency is called Epsi- the channel’s height, the better the tunnel-
with unconventional properties. lon-Near-Zero (ENZ) metamaterials (1). ing. The consequence of this unusual tunnel-
When the operating frequency is near the ing is threefold: (i) because the energy has
plasma frequency of transparent conduct- to squeeze through the narrow channel with
University of Pennsylvania, Department of Electrical
and Systems Engineering, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. ing oxides [e.g., indium-tin-oxide (ITO)] (2), no reflection, the wave intensity is enhanced
E-mail: the real part of the permittivity gets near zero along the entire narrow channel, and such

A ε > > ε0 B ε<0 ε<0 ε<0 ε<0 C



ε>0 ε⯝0
ε>0 ε>0 ε>0 ε>0

Features of ENZ metamaterials. (A) The wavelength can be “stretched” (C) Supercoupling phenomenon in ENZ-filled ultranarrow channels between two
within materials with low permittivity, whereas for high permittivity it is com- similar, but arbitrarily oriented, waveguides, in which an efficient tunneling
pressed. (B) A judicious mixture of a permittivity-positive and a permittivity- occurs regardless of the length, shape, bending, and twisting of the ultranar-
negative constituent structure may provide an effectively ENZ metamaterial. row channel.

286 19 APRIL 2013 VOL 340 SCIENCE

Published by AAAS

enhancement is inversely proportional to the nonreciprocity and time-reversal symme- that ordinarily would not fit in the region with
ratio of the channel’s height to the port wave- try breaking, when they are combined with standard materials. This concept may open
guide’s height; (ii) because the wavelength in magneto-optical materials. Such composites doors to novel spectroscopy of nanostruc-
the ENZ region is very long due to the low may favorably change the balance between tures in which the effects of the size of the
value of permittivity, the enhanced intensity the parameter of the magneto-optical activ- object may be decoupled from its material
maintains an approximately uniform phase ity and the dielectric parameters, causing pro- dispersion.
along the entire channel’s length; and (iii) nounced nonreciprocal effects such as wave
this enhancement and its uniformity along isolation based on circular polarization and References and Notes
the channel are essentially independent of the Faraday rotation (12). 1. M. G. Silveirinha, N. Engheta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 97,
157403 (2006).
length, shape, and bending of the channel. In conventional media, random displace- 2. A. Boltasseva, H. A. Atwater, Science 331, 290 (2011).
Because of its high wave intensity enhance- ment of tiny scatterers causes temporal deco- 3. B. Edwards, A. Alù, M. E. Young, M. Silveirinha, N. Eng-
ment over an extended region, this phenom- herence of the scattered signals. Because the heta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 033903 (2008).
enon has been studied for boosting nonlinear wavelength is increased in ENZ media, ran- 4. I. I. Smolyaninov, V. N. Smolyaninova, A. V. Kildishev, V.
M. Shalaev, Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 213901 (2009).
effects (5) and second-harmonic generation dom fluctuation of scatterers embedded in 5. C. Argyropoulos, P.-Y. Chen, G. D’Aguanno, N. Engheta,
and has also been used for enhancing the pho- these media may lead to decreased incoher- A. Alu, Phys. Rev. B 85, 045129 (2012).
ton density of state for emitters embedded in ence and thus may maintain a more coherent 6. A. Alù, N. Engheta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 043902 (2009).
such ENZ structures (6, 7). This platform signal compared with conventional materials. 7. E. J. R. Vesseur, T. Coenen, H. Caglayan, N. Engheta, A.
Polman, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 013902 (2013).
has also been proposed for sensing a defect Finally, when the permeability µ of ENZ 8. A. Alu, N. Engheta, Phys. Rev. B 78, 045102 (2008).
in the channel (8), thus opening the possibil- metamaterials is also near zero, the refractive 9. R. Fleury, A. Alu, Appl. Phys. A 109, 781 (2012).

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ity for fluidic- and biosensing applications. index of the medium again approaches near- 10. A. Alù, N. Engheta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 143902 (2009).
11. B. Edwards, N. Engheta, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 193902
The supercoupling concept has now been zero value; however, here the wave imped-
extended to other wave phenomena, such as ance is preserved (13–15). In such a scenario, 12. A. R. Davoyan, A. M. Mahmoud, N. Engheta, Opt. Express
acoustic and matter waves (9). a large volume of this medium may occupy 21, 3279 (2013).
Because the permittivity of these materi- appreciable physical space, while still being 13. R. W. Ziolkowski, Phys. Rev. E Stat. Nonlin. Soft Matter
Phys. 70, 046608 (2004).
als is near zero, the electric displacement vec- tiny from the wave point of view (because
14. N. M. Litchinitser, A. I. Maimistov, I. R. Gabitov, R. Z. Sag-
tor may also be near zero for a finite electric the wavelength has become long). This will deev, V. M. Shalaev, Opt. Lett. 33, 2350 (2008).
field. Therefore, an ENZ material can be used provide an interesting possibility to “stretch” 15. X. Huang, Y. Lai, Z. H. Hang, H. Zheng, C. T. Chan, Nat.
as a platform for “shielding” the displace- and “open up” a part of a physical system Mater. 10, 582 (2011).
ment current, just as a dielectric insulator by expanding the region and filling it with
Acknowledgments: This work is supported in part by the
may shield the conduction current in a metal- index-near-zero medium. Such “opening up” U.S. Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University
lic wire (10, 11). of the space should not affect the wave inter- Research Initiatives grant N00014-10-1-0942.
ENZ structures may provide a use- action in the external region but could pro-
ful mechanism for enhancing the effects of vide a platform to insert objects and elements 10.1126/science.1235589


Exposure to fire alters the properties of

Fire in the Ocean dissolved organic carbon in ways that affect
how it decomposes in rivers and in the ocean.
C. A. Masiello1 and P. Louchouarn 2, 3

ne of the great challenges of mod- On page 345 of this issue, Jaffé et al. (1) ability, BC becomes an increasing fraction
ern organic geochemistry is the shed new light on the chemical composition of carbon pools as they age.
determination of the chemical of riverine DOC. Quantitating BC is analytically hard, and
composition of Earth’s largest active car- Earth’s organic carbon reservoirs are it has been particularly challenging to mea-
bon pools: marine sediments, soils, and thought to derive from living terrestrial sure dissolved BC (DBC). Jaffé et al. have
dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in both and marine organic matter, altered through applied a novel DBC method to a large suite
marine and terrestrial systems. Together biotic and abiotic processes. However, once of river samples. With this method, which
these reservoirs are much larger than the organic matter enters soils, rivers, and the measures a highly recalcitrant fraction of
atmospheric CO2 pool, and they exchange ocean, its chemistry diverges rapidly from DBC that is enriched in condensed poly-
carbon with the atmosphere, making them the easily characterized chemistry of fresh cyclic aromatic units, the authors identified
potential CO2 sources or sinks in a changing plant matter (2). Fire may be partly respon- more than 10% of DOC in rivers as DBC. It
climate. Rivers play a central role in the car- sible for this: Burning alters the chemistry does not detect other DBC fractions such as
bon exchange between all these reservoirs. of biomass, rendering its organic chemi- levoglucosan (3). This means that the 10%
cal composition undetectable by standard value reported by Jaffé et al. is a low esti-
Department of Earth Science, Rice University, 6100 Main analytical techniques. Black carbon (BC), mate of fire-altered DOC in rivers.
Street, MS 126, Houston, TX 77005, USA. 2Department of carbonaceous material altered by fire, can An even more interesting result is the
Marine Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Galves- be transported globally through the atmo- strong correlation between DBC and DOC
ton, TX 77553, USA. 3Department of Oceanography, Texas
A&M University, College Station, TX 77853, USA. E-mail: sphere, rivers, and oceans. Because expo- concentrations in their river samples, indi- sure to fire can reduce biomass decompos- cating that fire does not create a distinct SCIENCE VOL 340 19 APRIL 2013 287

Published by AAAS
Pursuing Near-Zero Response
Nader Engheta

Science 340 (6130), 286-287.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1235589

Downloaded from on January 14, 2018


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