Colloidal Crystal - Applications - Photonics


Technologically, colloidal crystals have found application in the world of optics as photonic band gap (PBG) materials (or photonic crystals). Synthetic opals as well as inverse opal configurations are being formed either by natural sedimentation or applied forces, both achieving similar results: long-range ordered structures which provide a natural diffraction grating for lightwaves of wavelength comparable to the particle size.

Novel PBG materials are being formed from opal-semiconductor-polymer composites, typically utilizing the ordered lattice to create an ordered array of holes (or pores) which is left behind after removal or decomposition of the original particles. Residual hollow honeycomb structures provide a relative index of refraction (ratio of matrix to air) sufficient for selective filters. Variable index liquids or liquid crystals injected into the network alter the ratio and band gap.

Such frequency-sensitive devices may be ideal for optical switching and frequency selective filters in the ultraviolet, visible, or infrared portions of the spectrum, as well as higher efficiency antennae at microwave and millimeter wave frequencies.

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