Bending the rules of light

The world around us is bathed in light, providing the input to our eyes with which we try to make sense of the surroundings. However, light is not limited to the narrow band of wavelengths we can see, but extends across a broad spectrum including long wavelength radio waves down to short wavelength x-rays and gamma-rays. With such diversity the field of optics, the science of light, naturally spans a similarly broad range of application and technology - from communication, sensing and imaging, and precision measurements, to making observations of the distant cosmos with exquisite clarity. Recent years have seen the field of optics be transformed with the development of new materials that can manipulate light in ways that cannot be done in nature. These so-called metamaterials are bending the rules of light and providing the prospect of new functional optical technology. At the same time, efforts are underway to control the quantum nature of light, and manipulate the most elementary components of light – individual photons – and harness their interactions with matter to form a robust quantum technology base. 

Robert F. Service

Bob is a news reporter for Science in Portland, Oregon, covering chemistry, materials science, and energy stories.

Ian Osborne

Ian is a Senior Editor handling research papers in physics and in Insights handles Perspectives across the physical sciences.