At a luncheon held January 16 at the BRIC, eminent European physicist, Professor Norbert Kroˇ, addressed a near-capacity audience on his current work in surface plasmonics. He spoke at the invitation of Dr. Marlon Scully, Baylor quantum optics researcher and member of the National Academy of Sciences, who also hosted the event.
"Professor Kroˇ is past president of the European Research Council and current vice president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences," Scully said. "He is a man of faith, a man of physics and an excellent scientist. We are pleased and fortunate to have him here today." Prof. Kroˇ's work involves observing and measuring the effects of ultra-short bursts of laser light on electrons present at the surface of various metals. These "femtosecond" lasers emit pulses that are only a thousandth of a billionth of a second in duration. It is groundbreaking work with the potential for applications that could be world-changing.
"If we can control electrons as they move around the surface of metals, we can enhance the interaction of light with matter, perhaps allowing us to understand and control such things as high temperature superconductors," Scully explains.
In his lecture, Prof. Kroˇ described the generation of "surface plasmon polaritons," which have unique properties compared to "normal" light.
"I am dealing with a new type of light that is bound to metal surfaces," he says. "To a certain extent, this light can be made similar to that found with semiconductors. This makes it possible to make optical transistors that are very small, resulting in much faster electro-optical circuits."
Some of Prof. Kroˇ's most promising results have come from his experiments with gold.
"Using this new light, there is a high probability that I can produce superconductivity in gold at room temperature," he says.
Long a dream of physicists, practical room-temperature superconductors would revolutionize virtually every aspect of our lives. Prof. Kroˇ believes he is tantalizingly close to making them a reality.
"It is not 100 percent certain whether that is the case, but I am deeply convinced I've found it. That would be a sensation!"