U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) scientists are making use of metallic alloys to develop new designer materials.
The materials – derived by controlling the optical and plasmonic properties of gold and silver alloys by changing their alloy chemical composition – could help enhance the power and durability of battlefield devices.
The research was undertaken by ARL scientists Dr. David Baker and Dr. Joshua McClure, University of Maryland’s Prof. Marina Leite and Dr. Chen Gong, and Prof. Alexandre Rocha from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil.
“We demonstrated and characterized gold/silver alloys with tuned optical properties, known as surface plasmon polaritons, which can be used in a wide array of photonic applications,” Baker said. “The fundamental effort combined experiment and theory to explain the origin of the alloys’ optical behavior.”
According to Baker, the work highlights that the electronic structure of the metallic surface may be engineered upon changing the alloy’s chemical composition.
This could in turn pave way for the material’s integration into many different applications where individual metals otherwise fail to have the right characteristics.
The ARL study focused on combining experimental and theoretical efforts to elucidate the alloyed material’s electronic structure with direct implications for the optical behavior.
According to the researchers, the insights gained could enable experts to tune the optical dispersion and light-harvesting capability of these materials, which can outperform systems made of individual elements like gold.
McClure intones that the study suggests, when tuned properly, the integrated alloyed materials can lead to reductions in the weight of energy harvesting devices.
It also encourages lower power requirements for electronics and could aid in the development of even more powerful optical sensors.
The researchers are currently looking at other metallic alloys and anticipate that their combined experimental and computational approach may be extended to other materials – including nonmetallic systems.
U.S. Army Photo by Jhi Scott/ARL