A team of international scientists, led by the University of Exeter and carried out as part of an EU project, have engineered a fascinating hybrid structure, or metamaterial, that possesses specific characteristics that are not found in natural materials.

The collaborative team combined nanoribbons of graphene, in which electrons are able to oscillate backwards and forwards, together with a type of antenna called a split ring resonator. A specific design combining these two elements lead to a system which strongly interacts with electromagnetic radiation, according to the researchers. In these experiments, the team used light with very long wavelengths, far beyond what the human eye can see, to show that these new structures can be used as a type of optical switch to interrupt, and turn on and off, a beam of this light very quickly.

These artificial structures can be used to control and manipulate electromagnetic radiation over a wide range of wavelengths, and can serve not only as a testing tool, but could also form the basis of a range of technologically important components.