© Bolin Liao
The lines represent electrons bending as they pass through the "invisible" nanoparticle
Such a method could lead to the development of new switches for electronic devices and controlled electron transport as computer chips get smaller
A new cloaking method may be applied to electronics and thermoelectric devices for greater efficiency.
MIT researchers Bolin Laio, Keivan Esfarjani, Gang Chen and Rutgers University Assistant Professor Mona Zebarjadi have applied visual cloaking technology to devices for better thermoelectric applications as well as better electronics.
The team used a cloaking mechanism that makes certain objects "invisible." This is usually performed on metamaterials made of artificial materials with strange characteristics, where composite structures for cloaking bend light beams around an object, then allow them to resume their original path on the other side -- making the object "invisible."
The MIT team decided to use this method on electrons instead of light. They wanted to do this in order to optimize the materials used in thermoelectric devices. Currently, thermoelectric devices, which create an electrical current from a temperature gradient, require different characteristics in order to do so -- and these characteristics are not easy to get. These characteristics are high electrical conductivity and low thermal conductivity.
While these characteristics can be obtained, not many materials provide the odd couple. However, the new cloaking method can help thermoelectric devices obtain such characteristics obtain the strange characteristics more easily.
The team used nanoparticles with a core of one material and the shell of another, and allowed the electrons to pass through the particles instead of bending around them. However, their paths are bent one way as they pass through the particles, then bent back again as they exit. This made the material go "invisible," allowing the flow of electrons to to be improved at specific energy levels.
The team used computer simulations to test out the theory, and it appeared to work. Now, they will attempt to apply it to real devices.
"This was a first step, a theoretical proposal," said Liao. "We want to carry on further research on how to make some real devices out of this strategy."
Such a method could lead to the development of new switches for electronic devices and controlled electron transport as computer chips get smaller.