EE Colloquium: Near-Zero-Index Photonics


Materials are often used to manipulate and control photons. Metamaterials—judiciously engineered material structures—have enabled scientists and engineers to construct platforms with unconventional material parameters, providing exciting opportunities for optical and microwave devices and components. One such platform is the near-zero-index metamaterials. In such structures, the effective relative permittivity and/or relative permeability is designed to be near zero at operating frequencies, causing the effective refractive index to be near zero. Consequently, in such epsilon-near-zero (ENZ), mu-near-zero (MNZ), and/or near-zero-index (NZI) structures the wavelength is “stretched”, and therefore the phase distribution is effectively uniform throughout this volume. This leads to a variety of unique features including supercoupling, photonic doping, photonic surface states, electric levitation, extreme quantum optics, thermal beaming, and giant nonlinearity, just to name a few. In this talk, I will present an overview of some of the fundamental principles and unique physics and engineering of wave interaction with such near-zero-index structures. I will then discuss some of the applications of such platforms in photonics and microwave technologies. Possible future directions of research in this field will also be forecasted.


Nader Engheta is the H. Nedwill Ramsey Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, with affiliations in the Departments of Electrical and Systems Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, Bioengineering, and Materials Science and Engineering. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tehran, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Caltech. His current research activities span a broad range of areas including photonics, metamaterials, electrodynamics, microwaves, nano-optics, graphene photonics, imaging and sensing inspired by eyes of animal species, microwave and optical antennas, and physics and engineering of fields and waves.

He has received several awards for his research including the Isaac Newton Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics (UK), Max Born Award from the Optical Society, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, IEEE Pioneer Award in Nanotechnology, SPIE Gold Medal, the Balthasar van der Pol Gold Medal from the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), the William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award, induction to the Canadian Academy of Engineering as an International Fellow, the Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the IEEE Electromagnetics Award, the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship Award from DoD, the Wheatstone Lecture in King’s College London, 2006 Scientific American Magazine 50 Leaders in Science and Technology, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. 

He is a Fellow of nine international scientific and technical organizations, i.e., IEEE, OPTICA, APS, MRS, SPIE, URSI, AAAS, IOP and NAI.  He has received the honorary doctoral degrees from the Aalto University in Finland in 2016, the University of Stuttgart, Germany in 2016, and Ukraine’s National Technical University Kharkov Polytechnic Institute in 2017.


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Media Contact: Iam-Choon Khoo



The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was created in the spring of 2015 to allow greater access to courses offered by both departments for undergraduate and graduate students in exciting collaborative research fields.

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