Light-matter interaction at the nanometer scale has turned into a very fast growing field of research known as Nano-Optics. The first main motivation behind such enthusiasm comes from the potential of Nano-Optics to extend concepts and functionalities of conventional optics down to the nanometer scale, moving toward ultracompact photonic devices that are not limited by diffraction. Beyond miniaturization, an additional motivation arises from the rich new physics involved when matter is downsized to dimensions that are much smaller than the light wavelength.
Research in nanoplasmonics and metamaterials are very well representative of the tremendous increase of activities in Nano-Optics, and are both expected to have a strong impact on our society.
Nanoplasmonics studies the optical properties of nanoscale systems supporting surface plasmons and has gained a great deal of attention after the discovery of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) in the 1970s. Benefiting from recent advances in nanofabrication techniques, research in nanoplasmonics has recently been very successful in using noble metal (especially silver and gold) nanostructures to control light fields well beyond the limit of diffraction. Such control has already contributed to enhancing light interaction with tiny amounts of matter down to the single-molecular level.
At this very exiting stage of research in nanoplasmonics and metamaterials, further advances are in part conditioned by the development of new optical materials with improved properties as well as advances in nanofabrication techniques to increase the quality of constitutive nano-units. The past few years have seen a growing tendency toward advancing the material research in order to address some major roadblocks faced by both fields. Thus it is an ideal time to compile a special issue of Optical Materials Express that reflects some of the latest advances along these directions.
The article by Tamayo-Rivera and colleagues investigates a hybrid material formed by silver nanoparticles and Si quantum dots that feature enhanced third-order nonlinearity.