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Nature. 2011 Feb 17;470(7334):369-73. doi: 10.1038/nature09776.

A terahertz metamaterial with unnaturally high refractive index.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon 305-751, South Korea.


Controlling the electromagnetic properties of materials, going beyond the limit that is attainable with naturally existing substances, has become a reality with the advent of metamaterials. The range of various structured artificial 'atoms' has promised a vast variety of otherwise unexpected physical phenomena, among which the experimental realization of a negative refractive index has been one of the main foci thus far. Expanding the refractive index into a high positive regime will complete the spectrum of achievable refractive index and provide more design flexibility for transformation optics. Naturally existing transparent materials possess small positive indices of refraction, except for a few semiconductors and insulators, such as lead sulphide or strontium titanate, that exhibit a rather high peak refractive index at mid- and far-infrared frequencies. Previous approaches using metamaterials were not successful in realizing broadband high refractive indices. A broadband high-refractive-index metamaterial structure was theoretically investigated only recently, but the proposed structure does not lend itself to easy implementation. Here we demonstrate that a broadband, extremely high index of refraction can be realized from large-area, free-standing, flexible terahertz metamaterials composed of strongly coupled unit cells. By drastically increasing the effective permittivity through strong capacitive coupling and decreasing the diamagnetic response with a thin metallic structure in the unit cell, a peak refractive index of 38.6 along with a low-frequency quasi-static value of over 20 were experimentally realized for a single-layer terahertz metamaterial, while maintaining low losses. As a natural extension of these single-layer metamaterials, we fabricated quasi-three-dimensional high-refractive-index metamaterials, and obtained a maximum bulk refractive index of 33.2 along with a value of around 8 at the quasi-static limit.


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