Dr. Xiaodong Yang, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, received the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his work on optical metamaterials.
Yang’s work could lead to thinner and brighter cellphone displays; molecular sensors for homeland security and healthcare; optical interconnects for broadband high-speed Internet communication; optical lenses for high-resolution microscopes; and high-efficiency solar cells and thermoelectric cells. It comes through his research on “Light Manipulation in Metal-Dielectric Multilayer Metamaterials with Large Anisotropy.”
“The new kind of optical materials are made of natural materials but have extraordinary properties that natural materials do not possess,” Yang says. “These metamaterials will benefit our daily lives.”
Metamaterials are artificially structured composite materials with properties significantly different from those of the natural materials. In optics, the permittivity — a measure of how an electric field affects and is affected by a medium — of a material is an important measure of its ability to store electromagnetic energy and to convert electromagnetic energy into heat. Therefore, it affects the propagation and manipulation of light, Yang says.
The permittivities of most natural materials are usually isotropic — that is, having the same value in all directions, with positive values for dielectric or transparent materials such as air and glass, and negative values for noble metals such as gold and silver, Yang says. By placing transparent and metallic thin layers in alternating order, optical multilayer metamaterials are created with permittivities that could not be realized using materials that occur in nature.
Yang will use the multilayer metamaterials to study novel phenomena of light propagation and manipulation and to advance innovative applications using new kinds of metamaterials.
The CAREER Award is the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. He will receive $500,000 over the next five years to continue his metamaterials research.
Yang joined the Missouri S&T faculty in 2011 from the University of California-Berkeley. He earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 2009. Yang has successfully established the Nanoscale Optics Laboratory at Missouri S&T, and his group has made progress in the field of nanoscale optics and photonics. After he joined Missouri S&T, Yang published 33 high-impact journal articles.