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The 2010 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics

Awarded January 6, 2010, at the 40th Winter Colloquium on the Physics of Quantum Electronics.

John B. Pendry, Imperial College London

For pioneering studies in the field of transformation optics.


John Pendry is a condensed matter theorist. He has worked at the Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, since 1981. He began his career in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, followed by six years at the Daresbury Laboratory where he headed the theoretical group. He has worked extensively on electronic and structural properties of surfaces developing the theory of low energy diffraction and of electronic surface states. Another interest is transport in disordered systems where he produced a complete theory of the statistics of transport in one dimensional systems.

In 1992 he turned his attention to photonic materials and developed some of the first computer codes capable of handling these novel materials. This interest led to his present research which concerns the remarkable electromagnetic properties of ‘metamaterials’ whose properties owe more to their micro-structure than to the constituent materials. These made accessible completely novel materials with properties not found in nature. Successively metamaterials with negative electrical permittivity, then with negative magnetic permeability were designed and constructed. These designs were subsequently the basis for the first material with a negative refractive index, a property predicted 40 years ago by a Russian scientist, but unrealised because of the absence of suitable materials. He went on to explore the surface excitations of the new negative materials and showed that these were part of the surface plasmon excitations familiar in metals. This project culminated in the proposal for a ‘perfect lens’ whose resolution is unlimited by wavelength.

More recently, in collaboration with a team of scientists at Duke University, he has developed the concept of ‘transformation optics’ which prescribes how electromagnetic lines of force can be manipulated at will. This enabled a proposed recipe for a cloak that can hide an arbitrary object from electromagnetic fields. Metamaterials give the possibility of building such a cloak and a version of this design working at radar frequencies and exploiting the properties of metamaterials has now been implemented experimentally by the Duke team. Optical versions of the cloak have now been constructed.

Bio provided by Prof. Pendry, 2009.

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