Tiny Light Box Merges States of Light, Matter

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A nanosize light box, built from stacked atomically thin material, has demonstrated the ability to capture and amplify light and link light to matter at the nanolevel. The light box, created by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, makes the alternation between light and matter take place so rapidly that it becomes impossible to distinguish between the two states. The discovery combines the work of two research teams at Chalmers — one team’s work with nanoantennas, and another team’s research into transition-metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) materials. 

Tiny light box merges the states of light and matter, Chalmers University of Technology.

Using a box built from stacked atomically thin layers of the material tungsten disulfide, Chalmers researchers created a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. This new concept involves two distinct processes being housed in the same nanodisk. The box has a diameter of only 100 nm (0.00001 cm). It could lead to new fundamental research and more compact solutions in nanophotonics. Courtesy of Denis Baranov/Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology.

TMDCs have a high refractive index, a characteristic that makes it possible to use TMCD materials to construct resonant nanoantennas. The researchers used a well-known TMDC material, tungsten disulfide, to create a tiny resonance box, in which the light is captured. The light box can support distinct Mie resonances and anapole states that can be tuned in wavelength over the visible and near-infrared range by varying the size and aspect ratio of the nanosize box. The light in the box bounces around at a specific “tone,” allowing the light energy to be efficiently transferred to the electrons of the TMDC material and back again.

According to the researchers, the light energy essentially oscillates between the states of lightwaves and matter when it is captured and amplified inside the box. They demonstrated this novel regime of light-matter interaction within a single light box made from tungsten disulfide with a diameter of just 100 nm.

“We have succeeded in demonstrating that stacked atomically thin materials can be nanostructured into tiny optical resonators,” professor Timur Shegai said. “Since this is a new way of using the material, we are calling this ‘TMDC nanophotonics.’”  

“We have created a hybrid consisting of equal parts of light and matter,” researcher Ruggero Verre said. The discovery could support advances in fundamental research and contribute to more compact and cost-effective solutions in applied photonics.

The research was published in Nature Nanotechnology (

Published: June 2019
An SI prefix meaning one billionth (10-9). Nano can also be used to indicate the study of atoms, molecules and other structures and particles on the nanometer scale. Nano-optics (also referred to as nanophotonics), for example, is the study of how light and light-matter interactions behave on the nanometer scale. See nanophotonics.
Nanophotonics is a branch of science and technology that explores the behavior of light on the nanometer scale, typically at dimensions smaller than the wavelength of light. It involves the study and manipulation of light using nanoscale structures and materials, often at dimensions comparable to or smaller than the wavelength of the light being manipulated. Aspects and applications of nanophotonics include: Nanoscale optical components: Nanophotonics involves the design and fabrication of...
Research & TechnologyeducationEuropeChalmers University of TechnologyLight SourcesMaterialsOpticsnanonanophotonicsmicroelectronicslight-matter interactiontransition-metal dichalcogenides2D materialsEuro NewsTech Pulse

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