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Impressive patterned glass on new Mountbatten Building inspired by nanotechnology

Published: 10 January 2008

A striking feature of the ORC’s new £55 million research facility is the fractal pattern on the glass panels covering the outside of the building. This dynamic pattern has been inspired by our research on optical nanotechnology.

The research was undertaken by Professor Nikolay Zheludev from the ORC in collaboration with Dr Darren Bagnall and Dr Adrian Potts in ECS

The researchers are examining chiral fractal nanostructures and the influence that these designs have on the polarisation of light. Their research will pave the way for the creation of a whole host of new optoelectronic devices which could enhance optical communications or greatly reduce the cost of solar energy.

The original sample from which the fractal design has been developed was lost in the fire. Fortunately the researchers have been able to continue their investigations into similar structures which have lead to a number of exciting results in what is now the field of "planar chiral photonic meta-materials”.

‘By drawing features that are much smaller than the wavelength of light, photons can be confused into doing things they normally wouldn’t do,’ said Dr Bagnall. ‘The chiral fractal structures when etched into glass at the nanoscale were shown to produce very unusual polarisation changes. By using similar technologies to produce other types of nanostructured arrays on the surfaces of solar cells we could also ensure that optical asymmetries are created that prevent light from escaping the solar cells.’

According to Dr Bagnall the light-trapping technologies could reduce the thickness of expensive semiconductor materials needed in solar panels, and this could directly reduce the cost of the devices. The first challenge is to prove that the technology works in practice, the second key challenge will be to develop cost-effective ways to produce nanopatterned layers.

Professor Zheludev, Deputy Director of the ORC and Principal Investigator of this particular research project, comments: ‘I found it symbolic that the chiral fractal structure which was lost in the fire has been re-born as a decorative feature on the new Mountbatten building. It is also significant that the Mountbatten building decoration was created between the ORC and ECS who will jointly occupy the building soon.’

The new building, currently under construction and due for completion in July 2008, will provide a world-class facility which will contain a large purpose-built clean room and associated laboratories, along with offices and meeting space. The state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary facility has been specifically designed to meet the long-term research needs of the ORC and ECS and will allow for further contributions in these exciting areas of research.


The work was funded by EPSRC under the grant OPTICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF PLANAR CHIRALITY (GR/S00958/01). For further information visit:

Posted by Marketing Officer, on 10 January 2008

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