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Quantum Metamaterials research gains €1.78m Euro funding

Awarded ERC Consolidator Grant

Many congratulations to Dr Nicolae Panoiu in the Photonics Group at UCL. His research proposal on quantum metamaterials has just gained European funding worth almost 2m Euros. The research aims to initiate and advance an integrated theoretical and computational programme in an emerging area of metamaterials research. The research will bridge the gap between regular materials, whose physical characteristics are determined by the quantum properties of their constituents (atoms or molecules) and classical metamaterials, whose properties are defined at purely classical level by the properties of their building blocks (resonant elements whose size is much smaller than the wavelength). This new class of metamaterials have characteristics that provide new or improved functionality for a range of applications. Looking ahead, Dr Panoiu and his team will seek to design functional nano-devices based on quantum metamaterials (optical sources, sensors, detectors, etc.).


The most important reason behind the tremendous success of electronics is our ability to control the flow of electric charges at sub-micron scale, combined with the possibility to engineer and tune the electrical properties of bulk materials over many orders of magnitude. This has opened up the possibility to develop electronic devices, such as transistors and integrated circuits, which have revolutionized the science and technology. By contrast, optical properties of materials are primarily determined by their crystalline structure and as such there is little room to change them. However, with the recent emergence of metamaterials, we are now witnessing a dramatic change of paradigm in research in photonic materials. The fundamental idea in this area of research is that the effective, macroscopic optical properties of a material can be dramatically altered by structuring it at a scale comparable or smaller than the wavelength. The development of negative index metamaterials and electromagnetic cloaking are just two striking examples. Over the last few years research in metamaterials has grown at an explosive rate, the commonly accepted view being that now we are at the critical point when the knowledge accumulated in this area is beginning to generate a plethora of new applications, with beneficiaries in information and communication technologies, energy harvesting, healthcare, nanotechnology, and other important segments of economy and society. Metamaterials, which can be broadly defined as artificial materials with the unit cell size much smaller than the wavelength, are opening up exciting gateways towards new physics and applications.

The research programme will be organised along three broad, integrated Themes. The first will focus on a general theoretical description of the effective properties of quantum metamaterials. The key challenge here is to build a theoretical framework in which classical macroscopic properties of quantum metamaterials are derived from those of their quantum building blocks. The second Theme will be geared towards developing numerical methods and software tools for ab initio computation of fundamental optical constants defining quantum metamaterials. These algorithms will bridge the gap between complementary computational methods, which are currently used to investigate either classical or quantum systems. The third theme will be to explore new physics and breakthrough applications of quantum metamaterials.

Dr Panoiu will be recruiting two full time PDRAs soon to support the research and these vacancies will appear soon on the UCL EEE vacancies pages.