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The 2018 Paint Branch Distinguished Lecture

Capturing Light on the Nanoscale

John B. Pendry

Imperial College, London

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Light snacks & refreshments will be served at 3:30PM

The lecture will begin at 4PM

1412 John. S. Toll Physics Building, University of Maryland



Convention has it that light cannot resolve objects much smaller than the wavelength, a ‘rule’ that was shown to be invalid some years ago [1]. Here we look inside the wavelength and study the properties of plasmonic structures with dimensions of just a few nanometres: a tenth or even a hundredth of the wavelength of visible light, where the ray picture of light fails utterly. We show how the new concept of transformation optics that manipulates electric and magnetic field lines rather than rays can provide an equally intuitive understanding of sub wavelength phenomena and at the same time be an exact description at the level of Maxwell’s equations. The new technology brings light into contact with the nanoworld.

[1] Negative Refraction Makes a Perfect Lens
Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 3966-9 (2000).



John Pendry is a condensed matter theorist and has worked at Imperial College since 1981. He has worked extensively on electronic and structural properties of surfaces developing the theory of low energy diffraction and of electronic surface states. More recently he turned his attention to photonic materials this interest led to his present research into the remarkable electromagnetic properties of materials where the normal response to electromagnetic fields is reversed, leading to negative values for the refractive index. In collaboration with scientists at Marconi he designed a series of metamaterials, completely novel materials with properties not found in nature. These designs were subsequently the basis for new concepts with radical consequences, such as the first material with a negative refractive index, the concept of a perfect lens, and a prototype cloaking device, which have both caught the imagination of the world’s media.