Optical Engineering of Diamond
If one were to carry out a survey on the most important materials in optics that come to mind, the responses might include silica, yttrium aluminum garnet, and gallium arsenide. Over and above core optical properties such as transparency and luminescence, other important considerations come into play including durability, ease of manufacture, and thermal conductivity. But what if a material existed that displayed all of these properties on a vastly superior scale? A material of exceptional hardness, thermal conductivity, and transparency, that was also cheap, and easy to fabricate and modify? It is well known that diamond exhibits some of these properties and is indeed often touted as a being a â€œsuper materialâ€; however, it also has a reputation for being expensive and difficult to synthesize, and still maintains the perception of being reserved for the wealthy. Nevertheless, the synthesis of diamond has advanced enormously in recent years, with diamonds of sizes spanning from several nanometers to multiple centimeters now routinely produced with qualities that often exceed that of natural diamond. This capability has come after innumerable failed attempts to make diamond, and we can now consider ourselves privileged to witness and participate in this â€œgoldenâ€ age of diamond optics and photonics.
Today, considerable research efforts are underway in diverse areas such as diamond optics, photonics, lasers, quantum computing, and biomedicine. In quantum technologies for example, it is the room-temperature rigidity of the crystal lattice that is being harnessed to study quantum effects in an ideal isolated environment. The possibilities are multiplied with ground-breaking parallel developments in nanoscale imaging and manipulation, enabling the use of ultra-small diamonds in unique bioimaging technologies. Science magazines, general media, and blogs continuously report new developments, and some have already led to commercially available products. Just as the unique aesthetic properties of diamond have fascinated over millennia, so the fascination continues with renewed intensity for properties which have always resided just below the surface.
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