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Archive for October 11th, 2012

‘Invisibility’ could be a key to better electronics

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Author: David Chandler, MIT News Office

MIT team applies technology developed for visual ‘cloaking’ to enable more efficient transfer of electrons.

A new approach that allows objects to become “invisible” has now been applied to an entirely different area: letting particles “hide” from passing electrons, which could lead to more efficient thermoelectric devices and new kinds of electronics.

The concept — developed by MIT graduate student Bolin Liao, former postdoc Mona Zebarjadi (now an assistant professor at Rutgers University), research scientist Keivan Esfarjani, and mechanical engineering professor Gang Chen — is described in a paper in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Diagram shows the 'probability flux' of electrons, a representation of the paths of electrons as they pass through an 'invisible' nanoparticle. While the paths are bent as they enter the particle, they are subsequently bent back so that they re-emerge from the other side on the same trajectory they started with — just as if the particle wasn't there. - Image courtesy Bolin Liao et al.

Normally, electrons travel through a material in a way that is similar to the motion of electromagnetic waves, including light; their behavior can be described by wave equations. That led the MIT researchers to the idea of harnessing the cloaking mechanisms developed to shield objects from view — but applying it to the movement of electrons, which is key to electronic and thermoelectric devices.

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