Skip to Main Content
For almost 50 years, stimulated emission has been stronger and far more important than spontaneous emission. Indeed spontaneous emission has been looked down upon, as a weak effect. Now a new science of enhanced spontaneous emission is emerging, that will make spontaneous emission faster than any possible stimulated emission. This new science depends upon the use of nanoscale metallic optical elements, as antennas for spontaneous emission. The overall increase in spontaneous emission rate can be roughly 8 orders of magnitude! Under favorable circumstances the spontaneous emission rate can be comparable to the optical frequency itself, which is unprecedented. Among the applications will be: (1) Direct modulation of LED's will extend above 1THz, far faster than the direct modulation speed of any laser. This may define the future of short distance data-communications technology. (2) Materials which do not fluoresce or luminesce, owing to strong non-radiative losses (i.e. most molecules), will now become spectroscopically accessible since their spontaneous emission will now compete favorably with non-radiative losses. This is expected to have revolutionary implications in basic biological research, since a local probe can be inserted into a cell to optically interrogate the molecules at the tip. The lecture will provide the basic background in metal optics, and in optical frequency antennas required to understand the photo-physics of this new form of light emission.