Physics of negative refractive index materials
In the past few years, new developments in structured electromagnetic materials have given rise to negative refractive index materials which have both negative dielectric permittivity and negative magnetic permeability in some frequency ranges. The idea of a negative refractive index opens up new conceptual frontiers in photonics. One much-debated example is the concept of a perfect lens that enables imaging with sub-wavelength image resolution. Here we review the fundamental concepts and ideas of negative refractive index materials. First we present the ideas of structured materials or meta-materials that enable the design of new materials with a negative dielectric permittivity, negative magnetic permeability and negative refractive index. We discuss how a variety of resonance phenomena can be utilized to obtain these materials in various frequency ranges over the electromagnetic spectrum. The choice of the wave-vector in negative refractive index materials and the issues of dispersion, causality and energy transport are analysed. Various issues of wave propagation including nonlinear effects and surface modes in negative refractive materials (NRMs) are discussed. In the latter part of the review, we discuss the concept of a perfect lens consisting of a slab of a NRM. This perfect lens can image the far-field radiative components as well as the near-field evanescent components, and is not subject to the traditional diffraction limit. Different aspects of this lens such as the surface modes acting as the mechanism for the imaging of the evanescent waves, the limitations imposed by dissipation and dispersion in the negative refractive media, the generalization of this lens to optically complementary media and the possibility of magnification of the near-field images are discussed. Recent experimental developments verifying these ideas are briefly covered.