The device consists of individual fiberglass pieces arranged in parallel rows -- the same material used in circuit boards. Each piece is etched with circles of copper (Cu), and each circle contains a tiny gap that is crossed by a diode.
When the diode is excited by light, it breaks its natural symmetry, creating the non-linearity needed to make the metamaterial device.
The Duke team also used metamaterials in 2006 to show they can be used as a cloaking device to make materials invisible.
The authors state, 'This magnitude of control over light is unique to nonlinear metamaterials, and can have important consequences in all-optical communications, where the ability to manipulate light is crucial.'
To learn more about metamaterials at Duke University, please read the article 'Electromagnetic Metamaterials.'