Synopsis: Transformation optics by the slice

A general approach works toward bringing the magical ideas of transformation optics closer to practical use.
Synopsis figure
Credit: B. Popa et al., Phys. Rev. A (2010)

The field of transformation optics, where optical materials are tailored to direct the trajectory of light, has led to astonishing devices previously thought to be impossible. Now, perfect lenses fabricated from flat pieces of material, invisibility cloaks, and illusion devices that make an object appear as something else, all appear feasible. The catch is that transformation optics designs, which call for inhomogeneous and anisotropic optical materials, are far ahead of what it is practical to fabricate.

In some cases, it is possible to make the desired optical device by simply layering materials. This approach works for building invisibility cloaks with a spherical geometry, where layering spherical shells of different materials and different thicknesses gives the desired result. Unfortunately, this type of layered design recipe is not available for transformation optics devices with other functionalities.

Writing in Physical Review A, Bogdan-Ioan Popa and Steven Cummer at Duke University in the US have now shown how general devices can be designed such that the material parameters have level sets of identical shape. This allows a convenient “by the slice” solution to device construction based on combining identically shaped layers, each with different, but homogeneous, material parameters. Their design methodology, which in most cases relies on solutions to the eikonal equation of optics, is general and can be applied to yield a layered design for any type of transformation device and geometry. – Mark Saffman


More Announcements »

Subject Areas


Previous Synopsis

Nonlinear Dynamics

Branching out

Read More »

Next Synopsis


Finer features

Read More »

Related Articles

Synopsis: Hydrogen  Bonding Comes to the Rescue
Chemical Physics

Synopsis: Hydrogen Bonding Comes to the Rescue

Hydrogen bonding may safeguard biomolecules against the damaging effects of UV light. Read More »

Viewpoint: Cold Results from Fast Lasers

Viewpoint: Cold Results from Fast Lasers

Ultrafast lasers show promise to cool down and trap atomic species inaccessible to more traditional methods. Read More »

Viewpoint: Showtime for Molecular Movies

Viewpoint: Showtime for Molecular Movies

Molecular movies of vibrating iodine molecules have been recorded in time-resolved x-ray and electron diffraction experiments. Read More »

More Articles