UB professor publishes first book on nanophotonics
By ELLEN GOLDBAUM
Like any emerging technology, nanophotonicsthe science behind light and matter interacting on the nanoscaleis ripe for all kinds of claims ranging from the sublime to the far-fetched.
So it is an opportune time for the publication of "Nanophotonics" (John Wiley & Sons, March 2004), the first book to comprehensively cover nanophotonics, both as a fundamental phenomenon and as the origin of technologies and devices that will impact fields ranging from information technology to drug delivery.
Authored by Paras N. Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, "Nanophotonics" is written so that it can be understood by established scientists and advanced undergraduates alike.
"Nanophotonics means different things to people," said Prasad, who also holds appointments in the departments of Physics, Electrical Engineering and Medicine. "One of the reasons I was compelled to write this book was in order to present to readers the first unified picture of the field."
Prasad, one of the earliest pioneers in photonics, is known for his work developing novel photonic materials with applications ranging from information storage to photodynamic cancer therapy and bioimaging, as well as the recent development of magnetic "nanoclinics"thin silica bubbles that can target cancer cells.
He offers a multidisciplinary course at UB on nanophotonics, as well as a short course on the subject at meetings of the International Society for Optical Engineering. He also is the lead investigator on a federally funded, multi-institutional consortium to conduct research in nanophotonics that includes the University of California, Berkeley; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Washington, and Yale University.
Prasad says his objective is to interest young, as well as established, scientists about the potential that awaits them in nanophotonics research.
"We are living in an age of 'nano-mania,'" writes Prasad, "when everything nano is considered to be exciting and worthwhile."
He points to the many government attempts worldwide to pour investments into nanotechnology research, as well as optimistic market projections.
While the most optimistic of these focus on applications that lay five or 10 years in the future, the book also describes the many so-called "low-tech" applications of nanophotonics that already have hit the market.
According to the book, such applications include nanoparticles that are said to improve the performance of sunscreen products, automotive coatings, even self-cleaning windows.
But according to Prasad, the interaction between light and matter at a scale shorter than the wavelength of light makes possible many phenomena that are not even feasible with conventional electronics or photonics. These interactions or phenomena could make much more efficient solar-power generators, high-band-width and high-speed communications, high-capacity data storage and flexible displays.
Biomedical applications include more powerful diagnostic techniques, as well as light-guided and light-activated therapies.
Drawing in part on the research Prasad and his colleagues have pioneered at the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, the book covers this very multidisciplinary field from foundations to materials, applications, theory and fabrication.
After a brief discussion of photons and electrons, the most basic components of nanophotonic materials and systems, Prasad takes his readers through increasingly specific examples of nanophotonic phenomena and their applications.
Topics covered include near-field interaction and microscopy, inorganic semiconductors, plasmonics (which involves metallic nanostructures) growth and characterization of nanomaterials, nanostructured molecular architectures, photonic crystals, nanocomposites, nanolithography and biomaterials, as well as nanophotonics for biotechnology and nanomedicine.
In describing the market for nanophotonics, the book also identifies four key areas that could significantly benefit from targeted research into nanophotonics:
Wider use of clear solar power through the development of flexible, low-cost, large-area plastic solar panels and solar tents can be envisioned from the use of inorganic/organic hybrid nanostructures and nanocomposites
Advances in nanophotonic integrated circuits resulting from boosts in processing speed, bandwidth, storage and resolution, and the increased demand for flexible displays
Better, multiple sensors for medical and environmental monitoring based on nanoscale optoelectronics
Improved diagnostics and drug treatments from the use of light-guided and light-activated therapies using nanoparticles