Ico Prize 2016 awarded to Andrea Alú
January 2017 Number 110
University of Texas, USA
Prof. Andrea Alù, Temple Foundation Endowed Professor #3 at the University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded the ICO Prize 2016 “for his groundbreaking work on metatronics for ultrafast electronics and the localization of optical radiation in structured materials”. He is an internationally recognized leader in nano-optics, nanophotonics, plasmonics, metamaterials, material science, physics and engineering, given his inventions and large number of outstanding contributions to research and education. He has a prolific research activity, as evident from his long list of publications in highly reputable scientific journals and patents, and his outstanding series of prestigious recognitions for his research activity, which include the NSF Alan T Waterman award (2015), the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering from TAMEST (2016), the OSA Adolph Lomb Medal (2013), and the URSI Issac Koga Gold Medal (2011). He is also a Simons Investigator in Physics and an IEEE AP-S Distinguished Lecturer..
Over the past few years, Prof. Alù has made an important number of seminal contributions to the conception, modelling and application of nanostructured artificial materials and metamaterials to mold electromagnetic waves, light and sound in exotic ways, going beyond the limitations and challenges associated with the use of natural materials. During his research activity, he has introduced several powerful concepts in optics, material science, physics and engineering, spanning from basic science to applied technology. In his seminal work on metatronics, optical nanocircuits and nanoantennas, he put forward a powerful paradigm to translate the concepts of radio-frequency circuits and antennas to nanostructures, effectively transforming optical signal processing, computing and communications [Nat. Phot. 2, 307 (2008)]. During the past few years, he has been able to bridge the relevant engineering concepts at the basis of antennas and modular circuitry to the nano-world, envisioning new nanodevice functionalities that can process, transform and control light signals in unprecedented ways and with subdiffractive resolution. In a recent paper [Science 343, 160 (2014)], he and co-authors proposed the application of these concepts to realize analog computation in a subwavelength metamaterial layer, which may lead to ultrafast, ultralow-energy opto-electronics.
Prof. Alù’s research in the area of plasmonic nanoparticles and metamaterials has also significantly advanced our understanding of the unusual interactions of light and matter, and the possibility of manipulating scattering, refraction, reflection, absorption and emission of light, by controlling at the nanoscale the optical wavefront. In a series of seminal papers on these topics, he has proposed several opportunities offered by metamaterials to enhance nonlinearities, induce optical magnetism and chirality in nanoclusters and nanostructured optical materials [Nat. Comm. 3, 870 (2012), Nat. Nanotech. 8 (2013)]. More recently, he extended these concepts to control and manipulate the optical wavefront over planar arrays of these elements, i.e., optical metasurfaces [Phys. Rev. X 6, 041008 (2016)]. In this context, he has been exploring over the years the possibility of enriching the optical metamaterial platform with new degrees of freedom, which include spatio-temporal modulation [Nat. Phys. 10, 923 (2014)], gain [Phys. Rev. X 6, 041018 (2016)] and large mate- rial nonlinearities [Nano Lett. 11, 5514 (2011)].
In this area, Prof. Alù has also significantly contributed to the concept and realization of giant enhancement of the nonlinear response of optical materials using hybrid metamaterials. He and his co-authors introduced the concept of controlling material resonances and electromagnetic resonances on the same material platform, realizing unprecedented levels of nonlinearities in condensed matter systems. This concept [Nature 511, 65 (2014)], demonstrated unprecedented, giant nonlinear response at mid-infrared wavelengths, many orders of magnitude larger than what available in any natural material platform, enabling concentrated nonlinear optical responses amenable for frequency generation, ultrafast optical switching and modulation, integrated nanophotonic systems [Optica 3, 283 (2016)].