New Type of Electromagnetic Wave Discovered

An international team of scientists from the United Kingdom and the United States has discovered a previously unknown type of electromagnetic wave: a Dyakonov-Voigt surface wave.

Mackay et al found theoretically a new type of electromagnetic surface wave. Image credit: Arek Socha.

Mackay et al found theoretically a new type of electromagnetic surface wave. Image credit: Arek Socha.

University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Tom Mackay and his colleagues from Pennsylvania State University made the discovery by analyzing how light interacts with certain naturally occurring or man-made crystals.

The researchers found that Dyakonov-Voigt surface waves are produced at a specific region — known as an interface — where the crystals meet another material, such as oil or water.

Named after two leading scientists, these waves can be produced only using certain types of crystal whose optical properties depend on the direction in which light passes through them,

The scientists identified the waves’ unique properties using mathematical models that incorporated equations developed by renowned mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

They also found that Dyakonov-Voigt surface waves diminish as they move away from the interface – a process called decay – and travel only in a single direction.

Other types of surface waves decay more quickly and travel in multiple directions.

These phenomena could have a range of useful applications, such as improving biosensors used to screen blood samples or developing fiber optic circuits that transfer data more efficiently.

“Dyakonov-Voigt surface waves represent a step forward in our understanding of how light interacts with complex materials, and offer opportunities for a range of technological advancements,” Dr. Mackay said.

The findings were published online August 28, 2019 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

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Tom G. Mackay et al. 2019. Dyakonov-Voigt surface waves. Proc. R. Soc. A 475 (2228); doi: 10.1098/rspa.2019.0317

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